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 tempting to imagine what proper resort accommodations might do to one’s experience at Koh Surin, but if it were more comfortable, there might be even more competition for longtail boats and more stress on the reefs, so it’s probably better to tolerate the inconveniences and compensate with a little luxury when we return to land. At least, that’s how we’re thinking about it as we prepare to leave our dark, stuffy bungalows for a last snorkel, and then, too soon for me, our ferry back to shore.
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.”
Fish and coral; coral and fish. The program for an excursion to Koh Surin can be a bit repetitive, but for snorkeling lovers, there is a lot to see here, including the occasional octopus and reef shark, monkeys raiding the garbage, and a somewhat tamed hornbill. Add a visit to a “sea gypsy” village and you have a very full and exhausting four-day weekend. Just don’t plan on having internet access.
Koh Surin Day 4 (Feb. 2, 2012)
After another mosquito battle and organizing my bags for departure, we met for a classic Thai breakfast of rice porridge. Rice is a constant, of course, as are shreds of ginger, but the other ingredients can vary widely. Ours contained shrimp, fried garlic, and a bit of cilantro. From dishes on the table we could sprinkle on chillies for punch, and white vinegar for added freshness. We also had some shredded, dried, sweetened pork “floss” from Kasma’s snack bag, which offered some chewiness and extra protein.
Koh Surin Day 1 (Jan. 30, 2012)
While there were too few guests for the Jansom Hot Spa Resort to lay out a lavish breakfast buffet, we did have our choice of a rice or noodle plate. I had spicy chicken with Thai basil and a fried egg to start my day. That and several cups of Lipton tea would have to keep me going until lunchtime.
Ranong (January 25, 2010)
The hotel said they would open their dining room at 6:15 am to accommodate our schedule. However, they failed to mention that the food would not arrive until 6:30. Perhaps that is unfair to the white bread and sliced fruit — they are foods, too — but the extra 15 minutes built into our schedule already was being squeezed out.
As we headed to the pier at Ban Hin Lahd, we passed through at least 3 checkpoints. There is a serious effort here to crack down on Burmese immigrants. Fortunately, none of us merited close inspection.
Every year, Kasma Loha-Unchit leads groups of her cooking students and other fans of Thai cuisine on trips to Southern Thailand. Highlights include hours of snorkeling on the extensive reefs in the Andaman Sea; relaxing on beautiful beaches; visiting a batik workshop; shopping in vast markets featuring fresh fruit, vegetables and prepared foods; swimming in jungle pools and hot springs; and eating lots of delicious Thai food. For a general overview of the experience of traveling with Kasma, see Visiting Thailand with Kasma Loha-Unchit.
What to Expect on the Southern Trip (Trip “So”, formerly called Trip “C”)
Kasma offers a 28-day Southern trip that covers the Andaman (West) coast of the peninsula and selected destinations on the Gulf (East) coast; in 2010, she offered a shorter 20-day trip focused on snorkeling the Andaman Sea; current and future itineraries may vary. Here are a few notes about these trips, based on having taken the longer trip in 2006 (and updated following the shorter trip in 2010).
Ranong (Monday, January 23, 2006)
The Palm Court opened early at our request. In addition to the usual eggs, toast, and rice porridge, the restaurant served the Southern staple of thin rice noodles with various sauces. One was a traditional mild peanut sauce (more like a soup than the peanut sauce served with satays) and the other a stronger flavored fish curry. Two small bowls of noodles and three cups of Lipton tea would have to be enough to hold me until lunch. We convoyed to the pier without incident and loaded onto our boat for the two hour journey West to the Surin islands.
Khuraburi (Thursday February 3, 2005)
Koh Surin National Park is Thailand’s premier snorkeling destination, with numerous reefs teeming with fish and unparalleled corals. At least, it was before the tsunami. With only tent camping available, it was not the destination one would have hoped for, but at least it was open. Having already spent six days on the water, we would see whether Surin remained #1.