Given the distinct lack of Blogs of late, one could be forgiven for thinking that around the adventure of a new property in a new location, there have been no journeys to far off lands but this is not quite true. The onset of spring with its warmth and sunlight brought back memories of a very far flung destination that Mr Nomad and I ventured to in the latter part of 2022.
The destination was South East Asia, the Golden Triangle where Thailand meets the borders of Laos and Myanmar. Thailand, officially the Kingdom of Thailand and formerly known as Siam but which changed its name in 1939, is famed for paradise islands with white sugary sand beaches, turquoise glistening sea water, ancient and glittering Buddha temples, historic cities and wildlife rich rain forests. There are over 400 islands, many of which are jungle covered and thousands of miles of coast line begging to be explored. After the thrills and spills of the African continent, Mr Nomad and I sought a different destination for rest and relaxation and we had heard that the Thai massages were the ultimate tonic.
As peace and tranquility was the goal, we avoided the bustling capital city and largest city of Bangkok and the party place of Phuket and opted for the coastal resort of Khao Lak. The location is a series of villages with secluded beaches in Phang Nga, a province within Southern Thailand. It can be found some 80-100 kilometres from Phuket, around 100 kilometres from Krabbi town and at least 750 kilometres from Bangkok.
It was an area decimated by the tsunami that resulted from the earthquake in the Indian Ocean on 26th December 2004. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history with over 4000 deaths in Khao Lak alone. Some unofficial estimates of those killed topped over 10,000 due to a lack of accurate government censuses and the fact that much of the migrant Burmese population was not documented nor recognised as legal residents. Most of the coastal landscape had been destroyed but our visit in 2022 proved that the area had undergone a dramatic recovery. There were telling reminders within the vicinity, with many tsunami warning points and alarm stations, and a museum to commemorate and remember the dead.
Mr Nomad and I also got to observe the Thai Navy Patrol Boat T-813 on display which was swept some 2 kilometres inland by the tsunami. It serves as a poignant reminder of all that was lost and the devastation that was caused and we made a point of paying our respects when we visited the site at the Sea Turtle Conservation Centre.
We opted to be accommodated in Bangsak Village, an adults only boutique hotel with a private beach along the shores of the dreamy Andaman Sea. It was pure bliss, centred around a sublime swimming pool where we languished on a daily basis, only interrupted by the spoils of the Thai masseuses who got to work on our tired bodies. After the purchase of our forever home and the endless work leaving it resembling a building site, we relished the down time and the opportunity to completely switch off from our busy and hectic lives.
The dry season in Thailand runs from November to April with the monsoon season from May to October. The climate in Thailand is heavily influenced by the monsoon winds. Mr Nomad and I arrived at the end of the monsoons and inevitably, as the rain-bringers, we got stuck in many very heavy showers which were epic in their proportions! This did not dull our experiences, and we able to avoid most of the rain which often came in the afternoons. The temperature was exceedingly warm, averaging anywhere between 28c and 32c but the humidity was continuously high so much of the moisture felt was not from any rain, but from our own sweat. During the monsoon season, the wind changes direction and comes from the west where it reflects off the mountains and causes strong winds, waves and storm like conditions. This unfortunately made the sea rather unyielding and we did not get the opportunity to venture into it, to cool ourselves after a day of sun worshipping as it was rather rough. We did however, get to witness stunning sunsets over the deserted beaches.
That said, we embarked on the most wonderful boat trip to trundle around the Phi Phi islands (and others) and to take in the most amazing landscapes. The boat departed from Leam Nga in Phuket and after an hour or so on board, we disembarked at Phi Phi Don island to suck up the salty air, to lounge on the sun kissed white sandy beach and to relax. Mr Nomad and I duly obliged and settled onto a sun lounger for a brief period and then we leapt back onto the boat to head off towards Khai Island, and Monkey Island where the latter venue lived up to its name and we were able to wander amongst monkeys for some great photo opportunities.
We visited Loh Samah where we trekked across Ko Phi Phi Le island and down to Maya beach, where the film made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Beach,” was filmed. This island was stunning and the beach itself was breathtaking. It was easy to see why it made the perfect setting for such a film as the scenery was to die for. Due to the sheer number of tourists, it had been closed for 4 years to allow the ecosystem to recover and it was re-opened in 2021. This was utterly surreal and a delight, although the scramble to get back aboard our boat was a little dramatic. As a very popular tourist attraction, there were many people on one very small jetty getting on and off numerous boats and it was a surprise that the floating platform did not sink under the weight of excited but frantic holiday makers.
Onwards to Khai Nai island where Mr Nomad and I jumped into the water and snorkeled our way around, taking in the aquatic life which was enchanting. We were able to glimpse many underwater creatures including black tip sharks, a stingray and a turtle, amongst the various and plentiful fish life. This was a fantastic moment that transfixed both Mr Nomad and myself. Mr Nomad in his excitement dived down to get closer to the said turtle and nearly drowned in his quest to swim alongside it. This was magical for both of us, as we have always been avid turtle spotters on other trips that we have been on but this was the closest either of us had ever been to such an amazing creature in its natural habitat.
After clambering back aboard the boat, we were then took to Pileh Lagoon where Mr Nomad and I once more disembarked but this time transferring to a traditional long boat where we took a romantic paddle around the bay. We then jumped into the water and swam around aimlessly, enjoying the warmth of the water enveloping us despite the rain which had arrived. It did nothing to dampen our spirits and we thoroughly enjoyed the entire day to witness but a few of the many beautiful islands that Thailand is famed for.
We had contemplated a boat trip around the Similan Islands, described as a paradisiacal archipelago with a unique combination of granite boulders, azure blue waters and snow white beaches or indeed, the world famous Phang Nga Bay, on the island of Khau Phing Kan also known as James Bond Island because it was the setting for “The Man with the Golden Gun” but we were advised by the local guides that the wind was in the wrong direction and it wasn’t safe as the sea too rough.
We did try to relax but true to form, we couldn’t help but find another adventure to undertake. We took a trip out to Kiang Koo Creek where we went bamboo rafting. We boarded a small bamboo raft steered effortlessly by a local Guide and we floated down the stream at a leisurely and laid back pace, taking in the sights and sounds of a tropical Thai rainforest. Mr Nomad and I were the only people around in the area so it was private and peaceful. We glided past various life forms living in and around the stream such as a monitor lizard, a giant frog and the local Guide also pointed out snakes sleeping in the trees overhead. Snakes are not my favourite animal and their presence made me somewhat nervous, even more so when our friendly Guide sought to poke them with the pole that doubled as the means to move us along the water. The Guide, in his very broken and limited English, sought to reassure us that the snakes were not venomous and thankfully, he did not succeed in disturbing them because I later discovered with the assistance of Google that the snakes in question were not entirely harmless. If I had known this at the time, I may never have taken a dip in the water in the middle of the remote rain forest, but Mr Nomad and I seem to have an unnerving desire to embrace unique experiences!
This experience was followed by a trip to Lampi-Thaimuang National Park where we were able to witness the majestic Lampi waterfall with its mighty 3 levels, and took yet another swim in the water at the foot of the falls. This was another unique experience in that we were not alone in the water, and accompanied by some rather large fish darting around us. The fish were nervous and curious, but were no cause for concern.
The day ended with a visit to the Sea Turtle Conservation Centre at Tablamu Naval Base, where we saw the Thai Navy Patrol Boat already mentioned, a metallic and rusting victim and reminder of the deadly tsunami. We did however, get to see the conservation efforts that are made in keeping the many turtles that live off the coast of Thailand alive. We were able to view green turtles, hawksbill turtles, Olive Ridley turtles and leatherback turtles as babies in nurseries, and in their infancy all of which were protected until they are released back into the wild. 4 out of 7 global marine turtle species reside in Thai waters. Turtles are in decline due to habitat degradation, pollution, egg poaching and over fishing so although they have been on earth for over 130 million years, they are at risk of extinction. Mr Nomad and I were delighted by the lengths that the Thai people go to to preserve and conserve these mystical species.
There are many National Parks in Thailand and on the doorstep in Khao Lok was Khao Sok National Park, considered to be one of the finest in Southern Thailand. The national symbol of the country is the elephant, a creature that Thailand was once famed for but now there is only an estimated population of around 2000 elephants living in the wild. Mr Nomad and I resisted any visit to elephant sanctuaries on the basis that many such sanctuaries were known to capture elephants whilst babies, removing them from their natural habitat and to treat them cruelly for use in the tourist industry. Poaching has been a major issue in Thailand, something which has also caused the serious decline of tigers, leopards and other large cats hunted for their pelts.
After the boat trips in their various forms and the sight seeing of the water fall and the turtle centre, Mr Nomad and I made a point of relaxing and Thailand lived up to its reputation as paradise. It was idyllic with dreamy beaches, and a tranquility meaning that it was not difficult to find peace and quiet in this distant land, far removed from the trappings of a hectic westernised lifestyle. We had avoided the large cities and towns and we achieved our goal of unwinding. We had only visited a very small area of Thailand and there is still so much to see but that will be another adventure at another time. We had ventured into the sleepy village centre and visited Bang Niang Market to purchase souvenirs, but to also soak up the atmosphere. There had been a pleasant buzz and a low key vibrancy and whilst not anywhere near the scale of Phuket, or other towns and cities, it was an interesting insight into the nightlife of this coastal village.
There was an abundance of street food but some of this was questionable and I lost my appetite when presented with deep fried scorpions, or fat grubs. Until this moment, the Thai cuisine had been exceptional. Mr Nomad and I took the liberty of instructing the local tailors to hand make a selection of luxury garments to take home with us. All of this laid back living had been a wonderful distraction to take us away from the treadmill of life back home.
We glimpsed Phuket on our last day, when returning to the airport and although the Thai food had been outstanding and faultless, we couldn’t resist a burger in the Hard Rock Cafe. This city was overwhelmingly busy, and bustling with life which was not the point of our travels. Khao Lak had shown us a slower pace of life which was welcomed and much needed, and Thailand had not disappointed in any way.
I have no doubt that there is so much more to explore in this far east land but it was to be saved for another time in the future.
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