Thailand - Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 251 (61)

Koh Lanta

Sunday 14th November

Finally, we were able to simply rest and have a good, long, lay in this morning, which I think our bodies have been yearning for in recent days. I would have slept for even longer than I did, had the bed and pillow been more comfortable than they are. Even with the air-conditioner on full strength, the sun managed to warm up the cabin by a noticeable degree after a while and we were eventually up and about by around eleven o’clock or so. A good brunch was just what we needed to get us into gear, although there was no real reason to be ‘in gear’ to begin with. We had nothing planned for today and our location on the island doesn’t really lend itself to doing a great deal other than lounging around the resort, lapping up the bright, Asian sun.

There are some places worth exploring on the island, but moving about is the problem. Taxis are quite expensive, relatively speaking, and can take forever to get anywhere. They drive deliberately slowly, trawling for more passengers, which they charge independently just as was the case on Koh Toa. A ride from here to the main town is 80B (€1,54) per person. This makes a trip into town and back 320B (€6,15), which is not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things but still not far from what we are paying for a single night’s accommodation and certainly not an insignificant amount out of our meagre, daily budget. Another alternative is to rent a Jeep, but at around 1,200B (€23) per day (not to mention a huge deposit), this too was out of the question. The method of transportation of choice here on the islands in general is a moped or small motorcycle. Just about anyone with a building here, including many without even that, rents them here. On this island, they go for around 40B (€0,77) per hour or 250B (€4,81) per day. I wouldn’t mind renting one of these for a day but Sandy has never ridden one and is adamant that she’s not going to learn how to do so here on the Thailand roads. She’s got a good point, actually, as the guidebook warns specifically about the dangers of so many of these mopeds being raced up and down the badly maintained roads here by Thais and visiting tourists alike that haven’t a clue how to handle them or have any respect for what few rules of the road there are. Apparently, there are literally thousands of deaths each year involving moped accidents here on the islands of Thailand alone. Phuket in particular seems to be a bit of a black spot for this.

Breakfast was for me this afternoon an American breakfast, although they use quite some degree of literary license in calling it such. The menu said that it included eggs, sausage, bacon, ham and orange juice or tea. When it arrives sans bacon, I asked about this and was told that the menu was incorrect, as the predominant religion here is Muslim and there is no pork anywhere on the island. I’m sure that must have also been the case at the time the menu was printed but there you go. The sausage was more like a boiled frankfurter than anything else and the ham was some sort of sliced something or other that I didn’t want to think too much about. It was all close enough, however, and I enjoyed it nevertheless. I dare say that Thais, Chinese, Indians and the like might look twice too when served Thai, Chinese and Indian food respectively back in my own home country.

I was far too tired last night to write up my daily log for that day so I took advantage of the downtime today to complete that whilst Sandy spent some quality time in the sun, by the pool, next to the beach, with a good book. It only took a short period of wandering around the resort to bring my own body temperature to the point of needing to be cooled off so I grabbed my snorkel and mask and took to the sea. Our resort sits nestled in amongst a dozen or more others along this several hundred meter stretch of pristine beach, of which there are just a few along the coast of Koh Lanta. Depending on the tide, there is between ten to twenty meters of golden sand from the edge of our resort to the water’s edge. Almost immediately in front of our resort, there are a series of rocks that I thought might provide something interesting to look at whilst snorkelling so I went straight in to the warm and inviting water and started to swim in a Southerly direction, perpendicular to the beach. Initially, I was quite disappointed to find almost nothing of interest at all. I put this down to the fact that most of what I was swimming over was completely exposed during low tide. Other than barnacles, not very much grows on rock that is exposed during low tide. Eventually, however, I found some nice, colourful fish. At one point, I was completely amazed to dip under the surface to find not one but two bright red lionfish, hiding in a recess created by the formation of a couple of boulders. Together with some spiny sea urchins, this made at least two organisms that I counted that were potentially very harmful to my health so I swam with a great deal more care and attention after that.

I must have been snorkelling for almost an hour or so before I became aware of the swell of the waves strengthening and I popped my head up to see some angry clouds developing. I made it back to dry land just as the heavens opened up for a half hour downpour. Sandy was by now resting in our cabin, trying to escape from the heat of the day no doubt, and I didn’t want to disturb her whilst she might be sleeping so I rinsed away the salt water via the pool shower and sat at one of the restaurant tables until the rain subsided. Sandy gets very worried when there is thunder and lightning if she doesn’t know where I am. She’s always worried that I might somehow get caught in the storm or struck by lightning and so it wasn’t long before she came out looking for me. Since we were both now at the restaurant, and the storm had cooled the air down to a more comfortable level, we decided to have lunch.

During lunch, we composed an e-mail to the live-aboard dive company on my laptop. We asked for more information about the dive schedule and the food they have on board and I also wanted to forewarn them that we would be bringing photography equipment with us. We are fortunate here to have an Internet café where I can hook up the laptop and I only needed a few minutes to hook up and allow the e-mail to be sent. They charge 2B (€0,04) per minute for the Internet here with a minimum charge of 10B (€0,19). I was on the Internet for almost three hours the other night so they always smile widely now when they see me coming. I’m not sure if he was disappointed or not this time when I was finished after just a few minutes.

The sun was very much weaker and lower in the sky now and we decided to go for a nice, long stroll over the wet sand up and down the beach. Other than some driftwood, the odd coconut here and there and the dining tables and chairs from the various beach side restaurants, the beach is otherwise completely empty. This meant that anything and everything that moved was immediately and clearly visible and we had a lot of fun running after sand crabs and following fish in the small fish pools that had formed by the receding tide. We even spotted several small shells moving around, complete with their inhabitants still in them. This is the first time I’ve seen beach shells that were not broken and empty and it was very odd to see them actually moving about the sand with little feet and pincers sticking out of them. Our romantic stroll reminded me much of Florida, where we would often find an empty beach and just walk along it, usually looking for sharks teeth. There are no shark’s teeth that we can find here but the experience is no less relaxing.

By the time the sun was getting ready to start its nightly ritual of disappearing beneath the horizon, we made our way back to our own resort and both partook in a beach side massage each. What better way can there be to bring a nice, relaxing evening to a close? My massage was administered by a particularly accomplished old man who knew just how far to pull, prod and bend me in various different positions for the whole thing to be pleasant without causing pain.

We decided that even thought it was now relatively late for us, we would go ahead and still have our third meal of the day. We often end up eating just two meals a day, and sometimes just one, but I wanted to sample some of the fresh fish they serve here every night. They have a table in the form of a mock boat right on the beach with all the various fish nicely laid out under heaps of small ice cubes. The idea is that you point at what you want, tell them how much of it you want, how you want it cooked and they take care of the rest. Today, I tried Marlin (I think). It was nice enough but seemed a bit tough and dense for my liking but, along with the Barracuda from yesterday, that’s at least another new and different type of fish that I’ve tried now.

During supper, we discussed the possibility of exploring some other countries here in South East Asia. Some of the countries farther South of us have some extremely good diving and we are considering foregoing some of the time we expect to be spending in Laos and Cambodia in favour of heading South to find some more diving locations. Now that we have this idea in our heads, we’ll probably explore this some more when talking with other divers on the live-aboard.