Elephants, coral islands and a tornado!


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March 26th 2009
Published: March 26th 2009
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Elephant trekking near Ao NangElephant trekking near Ao NangElephant trekking near Ao Nang

"Tao Tao" the elephant


Noppharat Thara Bay, Klong Moung, Ao Nang Sunday 22nd March 2009

We have found another little Paradise! Noppharat Thara Bay is pine and palm fringed, dotted with islands in a clear blue sea, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Thub and Chicken Island to name a few, with a golden sandy beach and just a few very small developments. Behind it is jungle, interspersed with rubber plantation. It is pristine clean beach and totally unspoilt. No jet skies, no speed boats or hang gliders, just sun, sand, sea and sensational coastal scenery. There are not many places left like this and we are so lucky to have found one.

We have a bungalow (cheap as chips) with fan, mossie net and hammocks right by the beach on the very western end of the bay. There are just fourteen bungalow huts, a bar and a great little Thai restaurant and nothing else for at least two kilometres along the beach. Transport to town, however, is easily arranged by either tuk-tuk or a (long) walk along the beach and then a boat across a river estuary.

We left Surin Beach at 7 a.m. and by 8.30 a.m. we were on
Leaving PhuketLeaving PhuketLeaving Phuket

ferry across Phangnga Bay
the ferry leaving Phuket Town heading for Ao Nang, which is just north of Krabi. It was a most scenic sea crossing, through the numerous islands and limestone stacks that dot Phangnga Bay and, as an added bonus, a pilot whale decided to make an appearance close to the boat. The ferry dropped anchor offshore and we transferred to a long boat to reach Ao Nang beach. From here we got a truck to Noppharat Thara. Before even thinking of unpacking the rucksacks, we headed for the restaurant for Singah beers and some lunch (John had a chicken coconut green curry and I had a spicy shrimp salad). Delicious! After this we walked and waded out to a small island offshore, possible when the tide is out. Now we are chilling on our little veranda and discussing what we’ll eat later! Tomorrow we are going elephant trekking. There is no WIFI here, in fact no electricity either, except between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. provided by generator, and so this blog might not be sent for a while! We’ve checked in for three nights.

Monday 23rd March 2009

Our elephant’s name was Tao Tao, maybe because she
Our crowded beach!Our crowded beach!Our crowded beach!

Outside our bungalow hut
is calm and sedate (tao means turtle in Thai); thirty two years old, a lovely gentle giant. We have been on horses, donkeys and camels before but this was the first time riding on an elephant. It is pretty high up on a full-grown elephant and at first it feels very unsafe, but once Tao Tao had crossed a stream, stepped over a tree trunk and gone up and down some incredibly steep little jungle paths, we felt like old hands. So much so that John left the double seat we were sharing and rode back on Tao Tao’s neck, leaving me to enjoy a spacious higher view! It was a great ride, although it was extremely hot and humid in the jungle and the mossies were biting! On our way back to base from the elephant trekking we visited a catfish farm and then went in to Ao Nang for some necessary shopping (like more mosquito spray, coils and toothpaste) and to find an ATM. Thailand isn’t as cheap as it used to be for the traveller but still good value. It is, however, very traveller friendly (which is probably why there are more travellers here than we have
Beach and long-tailed boatBeach and long-tailed boatBeach and long-tailed boat

View towards Ao Nang
seen elsewhere).

The weather gods are smiling on us at long last. It is sunshine all the way here, gorgeous. Thank goodness for the sea, because with no air con and no fan until dusk it is hard to escape the heat, even in the shade. The sea, however, is actually hot, like a bath, until one is far from the shore. We have experienced swimming in very warm seas before but never in a hot-water sea. It is quite weird. It is impossible to walk on the sand due to the heat, so we wear our diving shoes all of the time on the beach and in the water. There are thousands of tiny crabs who run away terrified and bury themselves hastily in to the sand when we walk near to them. This end of Ao Nang is so isolated and quiet that we usually have the beach completely to ourselves (apart from the crabs). All pretty escapist!

Superb snorkelling
Tuesday 24th march 2009

Today was very special! We went snorkelling with four giggly student girls down from Bangkok for a few days holiday (three Thai girls and one Japanese); they proved to be
Ao Nang town beachAo Nang town beachAo Nang town beach

Busier than ours!
good company. The two local lads who took us out for the day on their long-tailed boat knew all the best snorkelling spots around the islands and so we experienced some of the best snorkelling we’ve done so far. The sea was crystal clear, the coral alive and healthy and there were thousands of fish, shoal upon shoal, some so bold that they tried to nibble the face masks. The Thais have made a huge effort over the last five years to maintain the purity of their Andaman Sea coastal waters and coral reefs. At one time the beaches were noted to be a bit dirty and unkempt but now they really are the cleanest we have seen in any country. Divers go down to search for any hidden rubbish and the beaches and water are completely litter free. Beautiful! Motorised water sports are not allowed in Ao Nang.

The boat picked us up from the beach in front of our huts at 8.30 a.m. (the girls didn’t arrive until 7.30 a.m. having come down on the overnight long-haul bus from Bangkok) to take us to the amazing waters around Koh Thup, Koh Mor, Chicken Island and Koh Poda.
Jungle view...Jungle view...Jungle view...

...from the elephant's back
The latter proved to be a bit busy (popular snorkelling area) so we went instead out to a cluster of huge limestone craggy rocks (no name islands) surrounded by one of the best coral reefs in the region. The sun shone all day, which made the brightly coloured fish even easier to see; the parrot fish sparkled in the turquoise water and the angel fish were magnificent. As we were returning to the mainland in the afternoon, however, thunder boomed, lightning forked down in to the sea and after we waded ashore we saw a dark tornado on the horizon (closer to Phuket) which was quite an amazing sight. Last week, in the Similan Islands, about a hundred kilometres north of here, a dive boat was lifted up by a tornado over the sea and eight people died. Right now it is raining heavily; think we are in for a noisy stormy night!

Tomorrow we are getting a bus to Khao Lak further up the coast and close to the Khao Sok National Park which we are planning to visit also. We could happily stay here in Ao Nang for weeks, it is so beautiful, but Thailand is a
John showing off (and hanging on)...John showing off (and hanging on)...John showing off (and hanging on)...

...riding on the elephant's neck
big magnificent country with so much to see, so we have to move on (we are still over eight hundred kilometres from Bangkok and our flight back to Heathrow). We have just three weeks left, which is quite hard to come to terms with, having been on the road for seven months now. We are hoping to get to Chiang Mai (as far north again from Bangkok) but will have to just see what progress we make. Thailand really is too good to rush through. If we don’t get further north than Bangkok we’ll just have to save up and return!



Additional photos below
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Great snorkelling siteGreat snorkelling site
Great snorkelling site

Thousands of Tiger Fish near Chicken Island
Koh ThupKoh Thup
Koh Thup

Stopped here for lunch
Our long-tailed boatOur long-tailed boat
Our long-tailed boat

(on the left side of the photo)
Parrot FishParrot Fish
Parrot Fish

Coral reef near limestone stacks, off Koh Poda
TORNADO!TORNADO!
TORNADO!

Is that thing coming this way???


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