Canoeing through Ao Phang-Nga

Trip Start Dec 26, 2005
Trip End Jan 25, 2009

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Today I booked a one day tour with Phuket's 'Unforgettable Experience: Phang-Nga Canoe' tour. I actually booked this tour with a lovely lady at 'Elegant Travel' in Phuket's Town (next to The Thavorn Hotel) called Took. I can highly recommend her services.

I felt surprisingly refreshed after hitting the nightlife in Patong last night. After 6 hours sleep, I arose at 7am for an experience that I have looked forward to for years - one of which you see in tourist brochures of Thailand.

After being picked up at 8am, the mini bus took me and a group of very social over 55s to Ao Poh jetty. A fairly large slow boat provided a very relaxing tour through the the area which is found in the Gulf of Thailand.

Phang-Nga is an amazing area ringed by limestone mountains as if bony fingers had struck through the surface of the earth and hardened forever. Ao Phang-Nga is an amazingly scenic bay of mangrove forests and limestone caves virtually melting with wax-like stalactites. The amazing crew aboard our boat served us fruit, water and softdrinks throughout the day. It was very relaxing sailing past the islands etc. Each group of 2 or 3 people had a personalised tour guide who provided us with guided kayak tours through various areas of the Phang-Nga Bay. During the tour we visited James Bond Island (the island rock in The Man with the Golden Gun) within Ao Phang-Nga National Park. I didn't realise that this tour would be so luxurious - we had guided kayak tours with a guide paddling for us. Talk about service! The tour was hardly rushed so we had time to swim, soak up the sights on board our kayak and take time to walk, sun-bathe or shop.

During the tour we were served an amazing buffet lunch of Thai food. I am loving the assortment of food I've tried and hope to learn some of the techniques, especially when I get to Chiang Mai. The assortment of sauces on hand allow you to choose as to how spicy, sweet or sour you want the dish. The Thai people find our use of the fork to be quite weird - when eating, they use the fork to guide the food from the plate on to a spoon which is then entered into the mouth. Eating food is a social activity for the Thais, and instead of 3 meals per day, eating consists of many small meals consumed during the day. It is interesting seeing this in action with groups of people snacking at small meals such as plates of vegetables and other small items of food (bread etc.).

I have found toileting here to be quite interesting. The Muslim people find our use of toilet paper to be quite unhygienic - they're probably right in saying that it can never fully clean the area. Everywhere I go I have seen a hose/tap on the side of the toilet instead of toilet paper. There is also a bucket/small dish that is used to flush the toilet. Even though I've yet to try it, I assume they spray and get water everywhere, hence the importance of wearing flip flops/sandles etc into the actual toilet. I can't imagine using this technique when wearing shoes/socks, and I'd like to know how they keep their clothing dry!

During the tour I met an interesting group of people from America's midwest (Wisconsin). A 74 year old lady by the name of Jane was adorable... she definitely added to my birthday by stopping everyone at the end of the tour and mentioning the fact that it was my birthday which was followed by everyone on board, including the wonderful group of 15 or so local tour guides, singing 'Happy Birthday'. During Jane's speech, she made note that even though we came from 7 different nations, this song is unversally recognised. In thanking her, she recited a poem as well... wow! What an amazing lady who added to making my birthday so special! The joys of this trip RTW is that I am getting to meet so many diverse types of people, of all ages, nationalities, backgrounds etc. which I rate as being the biggest highlight of the trip so far. I hate saying goodbye though!

Even though I was initially concerned that I was one of the youngest people on this tour, I had such a fantastic time surrounded by wonderful people. The over 55s definitely know how to have a good time!

I am falling in love with this country and can't wait to explore more!
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