We began the day with the usual – breakfast outdoors, under the awning, surveying the prospects for the day.
Today, there was a distinct cloud on the horizon. We’d heard thunder during the night and been woken by flashes of lightning, but hoped that it would have cleared by the time we arrived here, off Phuket in Patong Bay.
Clear it did, and by the time we were sitting aboard one of the tenders going ashore, it was starting to warm up nicely.
Thailand doesn’t change – we love it here and spent a few moments waiting for our group to assemble watching these young men try to get the old lorry engine to work. There were clouds of exhaust fumes, a few stuttered starts and finally it sprang into life. Basic – yes. Effective – most certainly.
Our destination was north of here, actually involving a drive over the bridge onto the “mainland” and to the area known as Phang Nga Bay, a National Park with kharst rock formations very similar to those of Halong Bay in Vietnam, or Guilin in China.
Here we boarded a rather more sedate craft than the long tail boats we enjoyed zooming about in on previous trips. We travelled out into the river delta, amongst the rocks and making a first stop at some cave paintings.
The boat tipped to one side as the whole contingent leaned out to get photos.
Next, we sailed by the Muslim Fisherman’s Village of Koh Panyee with the promise of stopping there on our return.
After a scoot through a hole in a rock (which I recorded on my Flip video rather than on camera, since it was a bit dark), we arrived at the end point – James Bond Island or Kao Ping-Gan, scene of The Man with the Golden Gun.
As we were taking photos, the small police boat came alongside, the two officers smiling, waving and saluting when they realised there were cameras in hand! They were there to collect the toll for being in the park area and our driver having coughed up the required fee, they sped off, saluting us all once again as they did.
We didn’t land at this island, because there wasn’t a sufficiently reliable landing stage for we delicate souls to disembark – or so we were told. I guess health and safety precautions together with fears of US litigation made it simpler to “just say no”. As it happened, it didn’t really matter, to us at any rate.
On the way back we did indeed make a short stop at the market at Koh Panyee, where things were plentiful and very reasonably priced, especially for those prepared to bargain. Some paid $10 for a small T shirt, others got a handbag for less than a quarter of that
As often happens on these trips, I find myself finding amusement/delight in the more everyday occurrences. On this occasion, having seen one kharst rock formation after another, the local Pepsi delivery was, for me, more interesting!
Lunch was good. A hot Thai buffet with a fine selection of tasty local dishes washed down with a Singha beer hit the spot perfectly for us.
No, this isn’t the bread from lunch but the sheets of latex rubber being processed at the demonstration farm on the way back to the ship, later this afternoon. I’d seen these sheets hanging out along the fence on the way out this morning, but had not recognised them at all. It was interesting to see how this was done and to recognise the amount of work which goes into this very hands-on production.
There were a few animals at this tourist centre, including these elephants taking people off into the forest.
The little monkeys weren’t as bored as this picture would have you believe. This one was jumping all over the place whilst we were there, sitting still for just long enough for me to snap his picture.
The water buffaloes were doing just what water buffaloes love to do
whilst we contemplated how an elephant might ride the motor bike…
(cute, isn’t he?)
From there it was back to the ship and a long, cool shower. As I dressed, I heard the ship’s horn blast three times to signal our departure for Chennai. I noticed the sun was setting and stepped outside onto our verandah to see one of the tenders returning to the ship, which now seemed to be sailing away.
Along with several of our fellow passengers, we peered over the rails to watch the goings on – this is quite a performance, involving precision in manoeuvring this small boat alongside and getting it hoisted aboard.
Bearing in mind this is really one of the ships lifeboats, everything needs putting back exactly as it should be and Mark was particularly bothered that the zipped window coverings needed closing. One by one they were fixed, until there was only the doorway to do.
By the time everyone was off, the last man zipping up the doorway to leave just enough of a gap for him to squeeze out of, the boat was being hoisted up and in, through the space where the rails had been taken out, and into place. A quick hose down and all was shipshape again.
We lifted our glasses and sailed off into the sunset.
Goodbye Thailand. We’ll be in Chennai, India in a couple of days time!