HOT INFO On The Road

Margaret and Keel's Asian Adventure
Riding Tigers: REPORT #13

We are in South Thailand, Similian island
December 11, 1999, Phuket, Thailand

Well for anyone that has been following my updates, sorry to keep you hanging but we've been a little out of touch, We have finally come to some civilization just to do some communication. We left off in Bangkok

Bangkok to Koh Phanghan
Left Bangkok
and took the overnight second class air conditioned train with sleeper down the Surat Thani. The rail system in Thailand is exceptional and this 12 hour journey cost about 10.00 US... This train leaves from the Bangkok central station, one place in Bangkok that you want to be on your toes and watch your pack etc. Arrived in Surat Thani and caught the bus and then the ferry over to Kao Pha ghan. We plan to meet friends on this island for Christmas and thought it prudent to secure accommodation in advance. If your going I wont recommend a guest house but I would suggest that the west side of the island is cheaper and not as crowded...Looks for touts on the ferry who carry photo books detailing their particular accommodation...We were able to find a nice little spots with Bungalow and private bath, located right on the beach for 100 baht per night. "Very nice place...also some rumors have haad rin beach as being the place to catch Dengue fever...so why would you want to go there except maybe to catch the world famous full moon parties...

After securing accommodation for our Y2k bomb shelter we headed over to the world famous Similian Islands which lie about 40 miles off the coast of Thailand in the Andaman ocean. It took a couple of days to work this out but it is possible to do this trip yourself, although you have to work very hard. Southern Thailand is geared for tourist, so much so that it may have jaded even the most sincere Thai's. Everyone is trying to sell you a tour or a packaged deal...I prefer to go local so I made my way to the Similian Island National Park Headquarters in Thaap Lamu where I made reservations to camp on the island for three nights...The boat trip out is fairly expensive for travelers but considering the distance still probably a good deal. I paid 1700 baht per person round trip...The seas were a little rough for the four hour ride but I managed without getting sick. The boat load of Thai tourists were deathly ill from motion sickness...

The Similians, what can you say....Paradise...Neon blue water, unbelievable snorkeling and diving. Reef fish by the tens of thousands..."Could not get enough of that kinda action. Slept in a tent which was quite roomy and had no problems with rats...a big problem on the Similians...My suggestion to anyone contemplating a trip on your own. Camp instead of staying in a bungalow, keep no food in your tent or in your pack and take any food items that you may want special with you from the Mainland. Boats go irregularly to the Similians so the island can get low on food. When we were there rice and seafood were the only for certain food items to be found on the menu...Mask and fins may be rented on the island and several beautiful reefs lie just off the beach...A wonderful experience... but I have not had enough snorkeling and diving so we go after more soon.. After arriving back on the mainland we headed north to Khao Lak, a beautiful beach area that is loaded with German tourist. Seeking more solitude we headed to the Thai Muang national Park to look for nesting sea turtles. While we did not encounter any nest constructing females we were able to see olive ridley, leather back and hawksbill turtles at this beach. Thai Muang N.P. consist of 25 kilometers of beach set aside for turtle nesting habitat. This place is really a pain to get to but we found that we didn't have to wait too long (45 minutes) to get a ride to the park entrance. The park itself has o.k. bungalows for 250 baht per night with no additional charge for the army of roaches that came out at night., One night in this roach motel was enough but a tent would make this a little known paradise...a 25 kilometer beach with no people or motels, only sea turtles.... We headed back out to the main road where we flagged down a passing bus and for 25 baht each got to Phuket. We are currently staying in Phughet at the Thavorn Hotel downtown. A great deal at 280 baht per night... we plan to stay here a couple of days to get some snorkeling done and some clothes washed. Who knows where we headed next... I do have a few thoughts on southern Thailand and how the huge amount of tourism has made it an entirely different place than the rest of Thailand that I have experienced...With so many tourists, mostly Germans, coming into this area...you really have to be careful for scams, over charges and general petty ripoff...It is unfortunate because in other parts of Thailand people go out of their way to help you and support you as your travel., We have not found this to be the case in southern Thailand Always check your bill, they don't seem to be able to do math as well in the south of Thailand. Without going into specific examples I will just say be alert but not paranoid. Be gentle but persistent and always smile even when they have you over a barrel.

For my bird geek friends a few notes; Sea Eagles Galore, Tons of shorebirds, and gobs of dickie birds... the birding is still fabulous catch me when I get home for the full scoop... I will close for now and look forward to my next update probably from Kho Pha ghan...until then...chow

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