Saturday, 21 July 2012

No woman, no cry and not a great deal of fish to be honest

Another day, another buffet breakfast. This morning we were ready to go on a boat trip for a bit of snorkelling. A songtheaw came to pick us up and take us to a fishing village where we were to board the boat. I say “songtheaw,” but it was really a pick up truck with two rows of seats in the back and no roof. The rear was full when it arrived to pick me up, so we went in the cab, in air conditioned comfort, along the undulating and windy roads of Phangan. We arrived at the fishing village and waded out to our longtail called No Woman No Cry (yes, another Bob Marley reference).

 Fishing boat at the village where we boarded our boat
Note the booms full of light bulbs for attracting squid

This boat doesn't half Bob

The post-snorkelling look is going to be big in Paris this autumn

We set off on the slightly choppy sea to the first snorkelling point which was just offshore of Salad Beach. There was quite a lot of coral, most of it dead plus a few colourful fish: parrot fish, a few angel fish, plus others I don't know the name of. It wasn't especially impressive. Our second destination was the best one we made it to. There was more coral, much more of which was still alive and a lot more fish, though some parts were quite shallow and difficult to swim over. I saw plenty of purple anemones with pink clown fish (not the Nemo kind, more plain) There were some huge sea cucumbers and I managed to see a jellyfish. On spotting this I swam in exactly the opposite direction since there have been reports of box jellyfish being seen in this part of the sea. I didn't feel any stinging at least. After we upped anchor we headed to our final snorkelling destination of the day and it was the worst. It was pretty shallow an most of the coral was dead and there were a few fish swimming about. In all, as far as snorkelling was concerned, it was not that impressive at any of the destination. Saying that, we really have been spoilt for snorkelling having been to some of the islands in Malaysia which are far superior to anything we have encountered in Thailand. It was still fun, though as much as we do enjoy snorkelling, there can be nothing elegant in the way you emerge from the sea back onto the boat, a ring around your face where your over-tight mask had been digging in, and the string of snot you invariably get dangling from your nose as you take off your mask, caused by the slight leak you usually get into the nosepart of the mask. I'd challenge anyone to emerge from snorkelling like Daniel Craig coming out of the sea in Casino Royale or Ursula Andress in Dr No.

Next stop was for lunch where we got chatting to an elderly British couple who, it transpired, were about 8 weeks from completing a year round the world trip where they had been through Latin America, New Zealand, Australia and up through Asia into China. I'm very envious. This is how I'd like to spend my retirement. It's got to beat a bungalow at Clacton. Mind you, all that sun had more or less turned their skin to well worn leather (or, sour grapes, if you prefer). Lunch was fried rice at a really lovely resort called Ao Thong Nai Pan Yai which had the most soft and light sand, sloping gently into a shallow, turquoise sea which, unlike Salad Beach, had no rock or coral to negotiate. We've already earmarked this place as the ideal destination to take a young child....

We headed back to the boat and went round to Bottle Beach for a bit of chilling on the sand under a tree (no snorkelling, mind). It was pleasant, but not as good as the last place. Finally we got back in the boat and headed back to the fishing village where we had to hang about for the truck to pick us up. We were the first group dropped off and I don't think our tour companions were especially enamoured with the location of our accommodation, having to negotiate the still half-metalled road where we needed to get past an oncoming vehicle, not to mention the horrendously steep and winding road up.

For the evening we had decided to forego the fresh fish and eat at a restaurant on the actually beach. First off, though, we wanted a drink to watch the sun go down. As it happened this was probably the clearest day to see the sunset and we got some great shots whilst sipping a cocktail. This is tropical beach life at its best. For dinner we decided on a restaurant attached to one of the hotels which had some torches on bamboo poles in the sand and some tables and chairs ready and waiting on the sand very close to the water's edge. We ordered our food and waited for it to arrive as the water's edge grew ever closer with the incoming tide. It got so close at one point that we moved the table back a few feet. The wind was also getting up and it blew out the oil lamp on our table. Dinner arrived and we started eating, quickly to avoid being swept away. The table needed to be moved back yet again to avoid becoming another statistic as we continued to play chicken with the rising sea level.

Salad sunset

After one or two more drinks we headed back to our room for one or two more as we watched how truly narrow the beach becomes once the tide reaches its highest.

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