We love Thailand. We visited many times and have spent some magical times here amongst the most delightful people so we looked forward to another visit, even if it was to be a short one.
So I was up and about early, looking out to see what was what and my curiosity was rewarded by the most lovely sunrise.
We were headed for the north of the island, to Phang Nga Bay today. Even though we had done this identical tour on a previous visit, for some reason, we decided to repeat it! (I guess we enjoyed that day)
Any way, off we set after breakfast, in a none too smart vehicle today - though the air conditioning did look a bit dodgy, at least it worked!
And come on, at least we were more comfortable than these people, tightly packed as they were.
Waiting in lengthy traffic queues gave us ample opportunity to survey the local wiring, though I suspect it might take some time to separate out the wires from the plantlife, don't you?
We smiled, too, as we stopped outside the chicken shop with a name/logo mismatch.
Eventually, after more than a couple of hours driving through heavy traffic, we arrived at our destination, and ting a ling ting a ling here came the local ice cream lady to try and sell us something! A timely arrival but we were more interested in getting along to the boat that was waiting for us somewhere nearby.
A short walk around the corner and there it was. Not the sleekest, most elegant vessel of the fleet, but hopefully reliable enough to get us there and back ok.
Getting on and off the boat presented a challenge for those of us who live a more comfortable, stately life.
Of course, if you live by the water and wear flip flops all day, then you just jump...so quickly that the woman with the camera only catches your tail end as you do!
Off we chugged then, the basic outboard motor power assisted by the outgoing tide. We passed the village with the market, Ko Panyee where we were scheduled to make a stop on the way back. For now, we admired the colourful scene and sailed right on by.
Once out in the bay, the local boats were moored alongside one another, waiting for work. Though we thought the area was full of people today, clearly on some days it's busier still though as it's a national park, I imagine numbers are controlled.
On we chugged, following the coastline quite closely as the water was shallow in places. As frequently happens, we chatted about similar experiences and tried to remember where we got stuck on a sandbank in similar circumstances. What fun we have!
The landscape here is of karst rocks, similar to that of Halong Bay in Vietnam, or in Guilin, China and sailing slowly through the most photogenic areas it was easy to see why this place is so popular with visitors.
Previously, we'd sailed through this arch in the rocks, but now, it's roped off and only the kayakers get to see it up close. Apparently I shot a video of sailing thrugh there - if I can find it, I'll update this post later.
As we chugged around the area, some more elegant travellers managed to maintain their poise regardless of their situation!
This area was filled with these small kayaks, each with a couple of rather younger, more agile visitors than us and paddled by a local "driver". The attraction was James Bond Island which was also the focus and turning point of our tour.
I wasn't sorry we weren't going ashore. It appears to be a bit of a tourist trap and I don't think there's much of interest, never mind the fact that, having got into this boat, I knew it wasn't going to be any easier getting out of it.
But soon, we were back at Ko Pan Yi and of course, we had a scheduled stop here.
Yes! We all made it on to the rickety floating jetty somehow or other. An elegant procedure, it was not but who cares?
Today, we were led through the market to the school nearby and our guide Bob explained how the village had come to be. Whilst he chattered away, I took a look around, finding this little notice outside the door to the Kindergarten especially interesting.
From there, it was a swift walk back to the boat, where armed with practice and our new found skills of climbing on board, settled in for the ride home, first to the jetty, then to the hotel for a quick bite to eat before getting back on the coach to drive back to the harbour.
Most snoozed and thankfully, Bob kept his commentary to a minimum this time. I was fascinated by the variety of fruits passing us by...I didn't get my camera out for the load of durians, but the pineapples were travelling a little more slowly!
Yes, we love Thailand, but once again we mused on how tourism is changing these places, not always for the better. Of course, we're as guilty as anyone else because we love to travel and visit far flung corners of the world too. But as the people here begin to depend on tourism more and more for their income, more traditional ways of making a living are disappearing. Food for thought tonight.