Hi there…Michele here…typing this from a small village in Malaysia (I’ve given up on ever being caught up on the blogs.) This blog is about our last stop in Thailand. On February 19th, we traveled by mini-van from Phuket (island) to Trang, Thailand. The driver was driving like a mad man going, what seemed like 100 mph, and servering in and out of traffic. Mike and I have figured out that the best way to deal with these situations is simply not look out the window. However, a woman in the back of the mini-van was completely freaking out. She was crying and screaming and yelling things in German. Her friend was trying to calm her down but nothing seemed to help. She was completely hysterical and eventually her friend told the driver to stop the mini-van. We were in the middle of no where and the two women got off. The friend of the crying woman told the driver that he was driving out of control and the crying woman was afraid she was going to die. The driver’s excuse was that he was late and “big trouble for me” if he didn’t get people to certain places in time. Stopping to let the woman off made us even more late of course and away we went like Mr. Toad’s Wild ride in Disneyland. Five hours later we arrived at our destination, Trang, Thailand.
Trang is a small town with few tourists. When we got off the mini-van and looked around all the signs and shops were written in Thai and the Thai language doesn’t use roman characters. Hmm…what to do….we found a travel agency and asked about staying at one of the beaches about 30 minutes from Trang. The lady had some photos of places to stay and we paid for one night on one of the more secluded beaches. We arrived at Sin Chai Resort on Hat Yao (Yao Beach) to find what we now consider our worst accomodation ever. The problem was that: a) we had already paid for it and b) there were only two places to stay on Yao Beach. Our first room had lizard poop all over the bed and an ant hill built on top of one of the electrical boxes with many ants living there. There was no ceiling to the bathroom. Instead there was some type of black net thing with many creatures and dirt stuck in it. The wood that the hut was made out of was rotting away, the pillow cases and cover sheet on the bed were stained and there was a think layer of dust everywhere. We decided we didn’t have much choice other than to stick it out for the night. We went to some nearby beaches that were empty and quite lovely. Here is a picture of one of those beaches (This one is technically part of Hat Yao beach.):
Later in the evening when we went back to our place, we tried to turn on the water in the bathroom (there was a hose where we assumed the water came out) we discovered there actually was no water.
We told one of the people who seemed to be associated with this place that there was no water and she said that we could change rooms. She took us to one room and after she walked in, she immediately walked out and told us, “not this room, other room”. O.k….we walk to another room and when she opens the door she finds some people living (or squating?) in there. We go back to the second room. She quickly showed us the room, turned on the water in the sink and said, “Water works fine. See?” and then ran off. We wondered what was up of course since this was the second room that she had walked out of. Well, we soon found out. The air conditioner did not work and the room was incredibly hot. The other problem was that this room had a squat toilet (which was fine) but the water well, that you use to scoop the water out of and pour into the squat toilet, contained water which looked like it had been sitting there for about 6 months. It was brown and sludgey. Perfect mosquito breeding ground! There were also many bugs in the room and two large, 3-inch, roaches that hung out around the bathroom.
After a few hours sleep, we got up, checked out, and caught a mini-bus back to the town of Trang. We had a recommendation for a place to stay there so when we arrived, we used a map we had in our guide book and found the recommended backpacker hotel – Koteng Hotel/5 Star Backpackers. It was built in 1948 so it was old but quite clean. We got the best room they had – huge, two double beds, 14 foot ceilings, A/C, and cable TV. All for the right price – $9. We decided to take day trips to the beaches from our awesome place in Trang.
Through a travel agents we arranged two day trips. The first, arranged through Trang Tour Company, was a trip to four islands where we would snorkle among colorful corals and fish, eat lunch on the boat, and visit an underwater cave. The second day trip, booked through Chao Mai Tour & Travel would involve visiting some beaches and caves that are part of the Chao Mai National Marine Park.
For the first trip, we and 14 other people boarded a very large double decker boat designed to carry 120 passengers. The guides didn’t speak much English so we never knew exactly what we were doing but it turned out to be a great day. We went snorkeling off the shores of three different islands and each place had excellent snorkeling. This picture shows the one uninhabited island where we went snorkeling:
The water was crystal clear and the coral and plant life was abundant. There were so many fish that at times, you had to push them aside so you could move on to another snorkeling spot. Mike and I had a great time exploring spots far from everyone else and observing many interesting, oddly shaped, and brightly colored fish. The lunch on the boat was great, especially the fish curry. Our last stop of the day was to the Emerald Cave. This is a beautiful underwater cave that leads to a small secluded beach surrounded by limestone walls. The only way to get to this small (40 ft.) beach is by swimming through the cave. Led by our guide, we swam 80 ft. into the cave single file. When one first enters the cave, the water is a beautiful clear blue green color but soon, its not possible to see a thing because it is pitch black. We swam in the darkness for only a few minutes before seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. We swam out of the cave onto a small white sand beach full of palm trees and surrounded on all sides by 40 ft. high limestone walls. It was awesome!
The next day we headed to a different part of the Chao Mai National Marine park where we visted a cave that lead to a beach. The cave had a couple dozen bats flying around which was cool. After walking through the cave for a bit we were surprised to find that instead of turning around to go back we continued straight and ended up on a beautiful beach. Here’s a picture from inside the cave:
We stayed around this area for about an hour. I went swimming while Mike visited some crabs crawling around on rocks. We then went on to explore some other small caves and found a few other hidden beaches with soft white sand.
Next we drove to the village and ate a seafood lunch that included the biggest prawns we have ever seen (7 inches after being cooked!) Beside the restaurant we met a young woman who would be our canoe guide into the nearby mangrove forest. We sat with the young woman in the canoe while her dad pulled us with his long tail boat. We went to an area that looked like a river – narrow with trees on both sides. The trees were actually mangrove trees and the river was really a salt water river. The long tail boat driver dropped us off at the edge of one of the mangrove forests and we paddled through the forest canals. Here is a picture of Mike in one of the canals:
Eventually we arrived at a small cave that we paddled into. This cave passage was quite long and a couple of times we got stuck because of the low water level. One of the cave canoeing highlights came when the girl told us we had to lay down in the canoe because the ceiling of the cave was going to be so low. We laid down and cleared the ceiling by about an inch. At this point it became obvious why you had to go with a local person who knew about the tides. The tide had to be high enough so that the canoe didn’t get (permanently) stuck but not so high that you couldn’t get under the ceiling. While in the cave, we saw some shrimp with glowing pink eyes. Very interesting!
After we paddled through to the cave exit, we went through more mangrove forest canals before coming to a much larger cave. We climbed into a large entrance to find a lot of strange looking formations including sparking stalagmites and stalagtites. After leaving this cave we walked 50 yards to a third cave where we climbed three rickety ladders to get up into the entrance opening. This last cave had hundreds of bats in it. The cave ceiling was very high and we didn’t have a light bright enough to see them but they were screeching and flying all over the place. After exploring the cave with the little bit of light we had left, we climbed back down the ladders and canoed through more beautiful mangrove forest canals. We finally ended up back at the big salt water river where our long tail boat man was waiting for us. He pulled us back to the village where we started. From here, we got back in our mini-van (yes, we had our own little private tour this day) and headed back to Trang town.
We felt sad leaving Trang. It was our favorite place in Thailand. The people were very friendly, there were few tourists, and the national marine parks, islands, and beaches were incredibly beautiful and fun to explore. But we have to move on some time, right?
The next morning at 6:30am, February 23rd, we found a tuk tuk driver to take us to the bus station. We took a 2-hour mini-van from Trang to Hat Yai. Hat Yai, Thailand is near the border of Malaysia. This is where we would transfer to a larger bus for our 9 hour bus ride from Hat Yai to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. See the next blog for more on Kuala Lumpur and our bus ride from Thailand to Malaysia. See ya!