Following in Grandpa's footsteps
Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
235Trip End Nov 30, 2009
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This will be the last you hear from me for a few weeks, as tomorrow I head into Myanmar (Burma) and if they have internet access there, I doubt I'll be able to afford it. Therefore I'll be busily travelling, writing and photographing whilst there, and have to post 6 or so entries when I get to Chiang Mai on the other side. Nothing controversial I promise but wish me luck anyway!
First things first however. Ranong is an obscure border town on the west coast of Thailand about 300 kilometres north of Phuket. Ranong province is the most sparsely populated in Thailand and also the wettest, with rain getting caught between the Andaman Sea and the mountainous hills that form the spine of Thailand in this region. This makes for good jungle conditions and 80% of the land here is forest. Very green and moist indeed.
The 6 hour bus ride (was meant to take 4.5) from Phuket took us past beaches such as Khao Lak, which were devastated by the tsunami due to their location on wide flood plains below sharply elevating hills. In places the waves could have swept across kilometres of lowlands, obliterating everything in their path. I was intending to do some volunteer work there through an organisation called tsunamivolunteer.net, unfortunately I could not spare the minimum two weeks they required. What a bastard, sacrificing another's good so I could meet my travel timetables. However I felt less guilty as we drove past - it became obvious that the town was far more substantial than I imagined, with large resorts (e.g. Le Meridien) bordering it and with beachside and highland reconstructions going forward rapidly. Phi Phi looked less reconstructed than this, which helps ease my conscience anyway...
Ranong town itself is absolutely unspectacular in every way, except for some singularly hideous contemporary architecture. That didn't stop my Grandpappy Pringle spending a lot of his later life here, decades ago, as a engineer in the Tin mines that surround the town. I never met him as he passed away in Bangkok long before I was born, however it was good to retrace some of his steps in a morning exploration of the place to see where he lived and worked. First stop was the mineral hot springs and despite the water colour, this was a pretty and unpolluted landscape that he would have enjoyed.
Seven clicks further down the road is the old Tin mining community that Grandpa probably lived in or near - Hat Som Paen. The wat (temple) and huge carp in the neighbouring river were highlights here, with 20 baht being well spent on food that got the big fish into a feeding frenzy. Although tasty looking, it's fortunate that carp don't taste as good as they look, for there's a local legend and curse on these fellas too - anyone catching and eating one is likely to contract leprosy. Yum yum!
After some difficulty convincing my motorcycle taxi of the merits of viewing the mines themselves, I settled for heading out to Ranong Canyon instead. No mention of this in the old guidebook, so I was pleasantly surprised by another clean and natural sight in the hills. Fish were in abundance here too, and more willing to have their photo taken than the carp back down the road. They should have got the 20 baht for food instead.
A little further on we stumbled onto a large green lake called Marokot Thara, which was once an old tin quarry. This is what I came to see - Grandpa probably helped dig this out with his own bare hands, then lived on the shore as the water that filled it went a nice emerald colour. I'm not sure what's in it but that could explain his earlier than expected demise. Still, he always was a bit of an enigma so that's one thing we'll probably never know. The hillsides around the lake were also alive with mining activity, no doubt due to the strength of world metals prices in recent years, so I got a few pictures of this too as the taxi driver scratched his head (no doubt thinking 'crazy tourists'...).
The rest of my time here was a little annoying actually, trying to find low denomination $US banknotes and the only laundry in town. Successfully achieved in the end but after expending far too much energy on both. Apart from that it rained, as it does in 'Rain-on', so I had plenty of time to get up to date on this journal.
Next entry -> Myeik in southern Burma
Lucky me travel affliction of the week
Typical eh? Months go by with nary a sniffle, then it hits you all at once.
Just after contracting the squirts in Tonsai, I happened to notice something strange happening with my finger nails. On both hands, the nail on pinky and adjacent finger started lifting off the 'nail bed'. My fingers weren't falling off, signalling the onset of leprosy (although I had eaten carp that week - hmmm), but it looked like my fingernails were going to fall off, one by one. For want of a better name I'll call it Nail Ejection.
As this Nail Ejection is on both hands it tends to indicate that my diet is deficient in something. Searching the internet to no avail, I leave it to the many qualified and armchair doctors that are on this list to diagnose my condition and possibly suggest a cure.
It seems to have stabilised for the time being but I like my fingernails and they're quite cute when they're not falling off, so if you know what this might be I'd greatly appreciate some advice.