Thailand has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and this last week we’ve had three very different experiences on them. We started the week off in the lowest key way, with a couple of nights boondocking on the Andaman coast in Southern Thailand. We then upped the stakes by leaving the truck and taking a boat out to Railey to a cut off peninsula with stunning beaches and finished with a lovely weekend with friends in Phuket.
At times over the last 3 months, we have seriously doubted if we would see any of Thailand’s famed white sand and turquoise sea combinations. Thailand recently changed its laws about allowing foreign vehicles into the country. It has taken Steve 2 months, liaising with other overlanders, travel agents and the government department. Like many new laws implemented there were several unexpected consequences, mostly to the few overlanders who pass through their country. The Thais were very helpful trying to make it easier for those already on their journey to continue but there were still lots of beurocratic hurdles. The truck’s weight was the biggest issue and even a couple of days before leaving Malaysia we still didn’t have the permit.
Thip, our Thai agent tried repeatedly to reassure us in her limited English, that it would all work out. When her English failed her she resorted to happy puppy emojis to communicate, leaving Steve with some explaining to do when I saw iMessager covered with hamster-shaped love hearts. She came though in the end as the permit was issued at the eleventh hour, we chose some appropriate fluffy kitten kiss emojis to communicate our thanks, when our non-existent Thai failed us. We have arranged to meet Thip near the Cambodian border to pick up our second permit to cross back over to Myanmar, so maybe there will be cute rabbit hugs all around then.
In the end the border crossing was painless and took all of 40minutes, most of which was the customs officer filling in the new, unfamiliar foreign vehicle temporary import form.
We’d decided on a couple of days wandering up the coast, unfortunately as it is rainy season the water was rather rough and murky. Recent storms and high tides had brought ashore a lot of rubbish and although we found a couple of great spots parked up under trees it was very wet underfoot.
You know that picture-postcard photo of Thailand that you see tantalising you from billboards? It has a pointy nosed boat bobbing merrily in a crystal clear turquoise sea with a limestone tower shimmering in the background. Gorgeous isn’t it and we knew just the place it was taken, near Krabi. Railay Beach is cut off from the mainland by huge towering limestone karsts, it’s only accessible by sea. So we packed a bag, waved goodbye to the truck and jumped aboard a long-tailed boat. Railay was a little slice of paradise, the sea might not have been perfectly clear due to the rainy season but otherwise it was gorgeous. The golden sands are bookended by tall limestone cliffs dripping with verdant vegetation. On the most picturesque of the three beaches was Tham Phra Nang, a little fishermen’s temple in a cave dedicated to a drowned princess. Wooden phalluses are left as offerings in the hope of a good catch and safe passage. Piles of penises and 4 foot high, erect willies were scattered nearby – try explaining that to a fascinated 7 year old.
The diminutive looking lady looked like she would need help opening a jar of jam. Boy, was I wrong! Lying facedown on a mattress, she pummelled me within an inch of my life. Call me a sucker for punishment but I love Thai massages for the way you feel just AFTER they have released the pressure. I loped out, feeling like a piece of cooked spaghetti. It was a good thing there was plenty of relaxing to be had at Railay, as I don’t think I would have been up to doing much more for the rest of the day.
It was about a hundred miles north to the island of Phuket, no longer a true island as it is connected to the mainland by a bridge. It maybe popular with tourists but we were going to see a different side staying with Steve’s old colleague Keith. He had retired to Phuket from Kazakstan with his wife Victoria and 2 children a few years before. They had a lovely house overlooking a lake, we parked on the driveway but slept inside in their delightful air conditioning. We had a great weekend with them, eating delicious Thai food; exploring the beach; and hanging out while the girls played with their 2 month old adorable kitten.
Victoria turned out to be a durian fruit afficionado, so when she heard of my desire to try this delicacy, she kindly offered to pick up a tasty one to try. The durian is loved by so many South-East Asians but despised by almost everyone else. The smell is so pungent that you can smell it from 50 metres away, in fact it is often banned on public transport. It’s hard to describe the smell accurately but it I think reminds me of sweaty socks with just a touch of vomit. I was intrigued to know what the taste was. My fellow family cuisine-adventurer was Lucy, yet again proving that she is the bravest member of the Snaith family. As Victoria happily tucked in, Lucy and I took a few tentative nibbles. Mmmmm…..weird…..soft, squidgy, sweet, tasting of cooked onions. Not at all what I expected from the smell, not truly disgusting but not pleasant either. I’m going with Lucy on this one: “Mmm, not exactly to my tastes.”
Keith took us up to the jungle, as the heavens opened yet again, to see a gibbon rehabilitation centre. Baby gibbons are poached from the forest so tourists can have their photos taken with the adorable long-armed apes. To get the babies, the poachers have to shoot the mothers out from the high treetops, which not only kills the mother but also often injures or also kills the baby, they then usually have to kill the rest of the closely knit family group, as they come down from the trees to protect the youngsters. It is a very sad business. The project aims to return these beautiful creature to the wild, they have four you can see that can not be returned to the wild . The others were higher up the hillside, in the process of breaking their bonds with humans. The loud whooping call they make to each other could be heard echoing around the hillside.
It was lovely weekend catching up with Keith, Victoria, Donovan and Ceira, who couldn’t have been more hospitable . As they got on with their usual Monday morning routine we waved goodbye and got on with ours, back on the road. Driving to the other side of the country to the Bay of Siam, to see what that has to offer.