We first went on a snorkelling trip round a few of the smaller islands and onto Phi Phi. We visited Bamboo island which was completely deserted when we first got there - beautiful
! Unfotunately several boats of Japanese tourists then turned up and it wasn't quite so peaceful after that! We moved onto Maya Bay which is the gorgeous place "The Beach" was filmed. You can see why they chose it; the bay is enclosed by huge vegetation covered cliffs, the water is azure blue and the sand is almost pure white. And that's also the reason people want to visit, but of course the problem is that it turns into tourist central and there was about 300 people on this small stretch of paradise, which is what I'd call overkill! But can't complain really - we came here and so we're part of the problem! I'm not sure how anyone can solve this issue; by encouraging tourism you end up ruining the whole reason people go to see the place, but you can't close it off to the world. Maybe a system like the Inca Trail where only so many people are allowed to go at once. Anyway, the place is amazing and I am glad we went to see it, despite the mania! What you notice on this coast is the Tsunami signs - what to do if the alarm sounds and directions for the evacuation route are everywhere. In Ao Nang they are having a full drill on the 13th which would be interesting. It's great that they are taking it all so seriously now, but it's such a shame it took the Boxing Day disaster to make it like this. But at least if it all works properly such a tragedy won't happen on the same scale again here.
After Maya Bay we had lunch on Phi Phi and spent the afternoon snorkelling - the places had beautiful coral formations and plenty of fish - helped by our boatman chucking in some watermelon so we were surrounded by tiger fish! You don't get quite the same view as you would diving, but very cool none the less!
Yesterday we went to see Ao Phang-Nga National Park, which reminded me very much of the Everglades
! Set out across a stunning river, the park is simply huge and the scenery is breathtaking. We took a longtail to James Bond Island which is yet another cool film location which was chosen perfectly - Scarmanga's lair from The Man With The Golden Gun! But the best part of the day was the canoe trip round some of the caves and rock formations - great fun! We did worry we'd get stuck in some of the tiny gaps we slid through though; talk about breathe in! After a bit of lunch in the floating village, which is quite a bizarre little community slap bang in the middle of the river we made our way to Wat Tham Suwankuha - The Golden Cave Temple, aka Monkey Temple!! The monkeys have made it their home as the monks used to feed them, and the place is actually full of them - as soon as people arrive they come scampering down the hillside and run all around you. The Temple itself was amazing...built into the natural hill caves, it's cool,calm and has a very reverant feel to it. The formations inside were stunning, stalagtites and stalagmites, "melted" rocks, and dripping water carving its way through the rock making yet more strange and wonderful shapes. If I were a Buddhist, this is where I'd worship! It reminded me of the Ghost Walk we did in Cheddar Gorge, Dad! (was it Cheddar? You know the one!).
As it was the end of our first month we celebrated with a fantastic ice cream last night (pics to follow but yumarific, trust me!) only 11 more left! Mel has left the omelettes alone in favour of Tom-Yam, so I have to rejig the omelette-omter into a Tom Yam-ometer, but even that went out the window in favour of a salad bar the other night! It made her very happy...until she was told she could only go up once...!
So we have been busy bees in Ao Nang, but now we're onto Malaysia and the Perhentian Islands....essentially they are empty, so we'll be back to being simple beach bums! No elec there so we could be incommunicado for a week or so but we'll update you all when we can!
So Ao Nang is a pretty cool town - all the usual bars, shops etc but also some street stalls so we've been eating cheap again - hooray! But the best thing about Ao Nang is that it's a good base for seeing and doing lots of stuff here on the Andaman Coast. This side of Thailand is generally a bit more imposing than the east side; limestone cliffs and mountains soar up into the sky around the town, there are craggy rock features sprinkled through the sea and there are proper rolling waves rather than flat clear seas. Quite a contrast! The other thing is that it rains. And rains. And rains some more! Usually torrential for a couple of hours each day, the water batters everything and turns the road into a river - fun!! We've been quite lucky though and haven't been drenched on our excursions!