Trip Start Aug 18, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Saturday, February 23, 2008

Thanks to the early start, I was able to ride the full 160km to Krabi, on the west coast, in one day, though I did have to pull over at midday and kip in a bus shelter for two hours when I found myself falling asleep whilst pedalling. From Krabi most people either take boat trips out to the limestone-karst islands off the coast, one of which was used in a Bond film, or make their way to the island of Railay, which is the world #1 mecca for rock climbers. I'd intended to do the latter, having met climbers in other places who'd made it sound like fun. When I arrived in Krabi, however, I found that the climbing courses were expensive, the town was busy and my enthusiasm had waned. So, to no one in particular, I said 'fuck it', and continued riding south. Two days later I reached Pak Bara, from where I could take a ferry to Thailand's southernmost Andaman sea islands, Tarutao, Adang and Lipe.

Of these, Taurutao and Adang are protected national parks, where the only accomodation is some bungalows organised by the national park authority and a campsite. I went to Adang and, for the first time since China, pitched my tent. I chose a spot at the fringe of the woods, looking out to sea. Two nights of gales bending the tent almost flush with the beach finally forced me to migrate into the woods and behind a windbreak. One morning I removed the inner tent and, for the first time in 18months, washed it. I'd packed it away slightly moist several months previously, and some black mouldy patches had appeared, accompanied by a musty smell that made me feel oddly nostalgic. The water I finally rinsed away was the queasiest shade of greasy brown I've ever seen.

I spent three days on Koh Adang, mostly snorkling and reading, with a short trek to the 'pirate waterfall', in the jungly interior. Apparently pirates used to use the island to restock with fresh water. I was caught in the rain hiking to the falls, which made the trek feel even more jungly as the vines and leaves dripped and the warm water released the fecund aroma of rainforest mulch.

The day I finally left I intended to take the ferry back to the mainland and cross into Malaysia. I also intended to celebrate my 24th birthday at some point. As it transpired, neither came about. The outrageous incompetence of the national park manager meant that the longtail boat to the ferry was 10minutes too late, despite separate requests from myself and another guest, both the previous night and early in the morning. This left me stuck on Koh Lipe. This was not the worst possible outcome. Koh Lipe was the more developed of the island group, having been exempted from the national park protection, but it still had no paved roads. Its first 5star resort will open next season.

Nonetheless there was no shortage of accomodation, restaurants and bars, or of scantily clad Europeans desperately trying to develop skin cancer in a fortnights holiday. Some women were even sunbathing topless, which scandalised me more than I'd have expected. Apparently I've become quite prudish after a year in Asia. The failure to celebrate my birthday was due the discovery, while booking the ferry back to the mainland for the following morning, that 2008 is, in fact, a leap year, and it wasn't actually my birthday. (well, how was I to know? Leap years are so unpredictable..). Since I'd been given an extra day, I snorkled, read Don Quixote while lying in a hammock listening to Bob Marley, and spent the evening watching Minority Report in a restaurant.
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