Island Tour

Trip Start Jan 19, 2013
Trip End Feb 02, 2013

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Flag of Thailand  , Nakhon Si Thammarat,
Thursday, January 24, 2013

Carlo and I woke up bright and early to start our adventure for the day. The previous we had booked a tour of Koh Phangan and I was eager to get moving.  We had time to grab a quick breakfast at the hotel's restaurant before we were picked up by the tour company’s truck.  Nicola met up with us in the street and we all loaded into the bed of the pick-up truck, which had been bordered with bench seats.  The ride was a little bumpy and breezy but we made it to the tour company’s head-quarters in one piece.

Once we were there we were given our "light breakfast" of a banana and a cookie and I was sure glad that we had already eaten.  After a bit of waiting our tour guide showed up and we climbed back up into the bed of the truck to get moving.  The tour consisted of Carlo and me, Nicola, and a German couple that didn’t speak enough English to be terribly chatty.  Our tour guide introduced himself as “Monkey” but later we found out his name was Bao.  Our driver was “Johnny Depp” and we were never corrected…

The first stop was a Chinese temple perched up in the trees with a fantastic view of the mountains toward the center of the island.  Bao explained about the traditions and history of the temple and we wandered around, taking in the golden dragons and imposing statues.  With our admiring completed, we moved on to the second stop.

Next was snorkeling so the truck bounced around the coast of the island until we came to an appropriate spot of sea.  We were loaded up into a blue and red wooden boat and we sped out into the beautiful expanse of blue.  Once we came to the right spot we were handed our snorkels and left to our own devices.  We found the water to be warm, but a bit murky and incredibly salty.  I put my masked face into the water and found… blue.  I couldn’t see the bottom, couldn’t even see a fish.  How disappointing.  I started to paddle around, moving away from the boat and closer to the shore.  Slowly more and more fish came into view and I could even see some coral down below me.  There were fleets of white and black striped fish about the size of a hand that were rather common.  At one point I was swarmed by a few of them who were curious and not terribly afraid.  I held still, mask in the water, as they darted around me in inspection.  After a bit we were called back to the boat to move on to our next location… It would only get better from here.

Next we were going to go to Bottle Beach for a bit more swimming.  The boat cut through the waves and we bounced merrily in the spray.  It took a while for us to get there but the scenery and the breeze was fantastic.  We found that the beach that we arrived at was worth the wait as we clambered out of the boat and onto the white powder sand.  Nicola, Carlo and I bobbed around in the waves, joking and splashing at each other as we enjoyed the peace and sun.  But not for too long, we had places to go and things to see.

Back into the boat we went, carving through the waves to get back to the bed of the pick-up truck.  Then it was on to the elephant sanctuary and some well-deserved lunch. The banquet of food was just being set out as we arrived and every bite of it was delicious.  Sweet and sour chicken, fried noodles, coconut soup, and greens with soy sauce.  We gobbled our food (okay, I gobbled my food) as we watched other groups of people taking their rides on the elephants.

Once we were finished eating we went up the stairs to the elephant platform to board our elephant.  The German couple went first, then Carlo and I with Nicola and Bao bringing up the rear.  We headed away from the sanctuary and out into the jungle, traversing a well beaten trail.  We passed through palm trees and crossed a river when our elephant decided that he would rather eat a nearby tree than continue on the journey.  Our Mahout (elephant handler) slipped down off of the massive pachyderm to remove the splintered tree and urge our elephant onwards.  He also took that opportunity to snap a few pictures of us looking excited and bewildered.  He climbed back on and we were on our way back to the sanctuary when we took a bit of a detour towards a small lake.  Once again the Mahout slipped to the ground and took our camera before urging our elephant into the lake.  Carlo and I gripped the seat we were on as we lurched downwards, coming precariously close to the murky brown lake water.  The elephant huffed and snuffled as he made his way across the lake, up to his cheeks in water.  We jolted up out of the water on the other side, rocking slightly as our elephant regained his footing on the solid ground. 

Our ride was over; all we had to do was get off the elephant and onto the wooden platform.  I went first and then turned to offer a hand to Carlo.  Unfortunately he did not see me and I ended up knocking his sunglasses off his face.  I turned to watch in horror as the glasses tumbled to the dirt… and the elephant shifted its weight on top of them.  We all bellowed in chorus and the Mahout scrambled to gather up the glasses from under the elephants foot.  Thankfully, they were pretty intact and with a little fiddling they were salvaged.

After all of that we got back into the truck to visit one of the beautiful waterfalls in Koh Phangan.  We were brought to a beautiful park where we got out of the truck and Bao led us up a path to the waterfall.  We took our shoes off to climb up into the waterfall, trying our best not to slip on the incredibly slick rocks (I only fell once).  After taking in the incredible view of the waterfall (and the other tourists) we were ready to head out.

Our last stop was going to be sea kayaking, so we were brought back to the tour agency head-quarters and then we walked together to the shore.  We were each fitted with a neon orange life vest and handed a paddle and then we split into our pairs to take to the sea.  The kayaking was not easy, but the breeze was enjoyable and the crashing waves were beautiful.  We set our sights on a tiny island off the coast and with a bunch of paddling we finally made it to land.  We dragged our boats up onto the sand and then went around a little bend to find a secret little lagoon.

We tossed our paddles and life jackets aside, dropping into the deep cool water to relax for a while before making the return trip.  Nicola and I swam to the center of the lagoon, our chatting and laughter echoing out across the water.  We probably stayed longer than we should have before Bao shooed us back to our kayaks and we headed back towards the main island. 

It had gotten late in the day and we were all exhausted so we all clambered back into the bed of the pick-up truck to be dropped off at our bungalows and resorts.  Carlo and I made plans to get cleaned up and then meet up with Nicola for dinner in a couple of hours.  After a long day a nice shower felt good and eating dinner felt even better.  This time we went across the street from our bungalow and found the food just as good… but significantly cheaper.  Carlo had his usual pad thai, but Nicola and I dined on pizzas.
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Mom on

I can't believe you packed so many amazing experiences into a single day, including something most of us will never do - riding atop an elephant! You may want to consider making that photo your 2013 Christmas card :)

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