M.A. Van Wey Travel & Photo


Another adventure to the South
July 2, 2010, 3:44 am
Filed under: Travel Abroad | Tags: , , , , , ,

Updates have been sparse recently, and I think this is largely due to my reluctance to write long travel accounts.  I enjoy writing but perhaps I get more pleasure from taking and sharing my photos.  The prospect of trying to write a concise and complete account of my trips as a sort of online journal is daunting for me.  I guess this is why I don’t keep a real journal of anything in my life.  So from now on I think I’ll try a slightly different approach to this blog.  I’ll be more vague and try to let the pictures do most of the talking.  Inevitably I’ll leave something out, some amazing moment that my photos didn’t capture.  I’ll try to give some context and miscellaneous detail, but not a thorough account.  Hopefully the combination of writing and photos will give you a sense of being there, or at least a sense of something.

-Matt

Over the 2 week break between summer school and the next school year, Jennifer and I went back down south to the Andaman sea for some beach time.  This time we ventured to Ranong Province, one of my favorite provinces in Thailand.   I’ll leave out specific names of places to avoid the extra attention, but of course if I know you personally and you ask, I’ll tell.  We visited several small and relatively unpopulated islands along the coast, either camping or staying in bungalows that didn’t cost more than $6 a night.

One island we stayed on was covered in cashew trees.  The stinky fruit and nuts were everywhere, you could smell the fermenting fruit every time you walked through the forests.  A network of trails crisscrossed the island (no cars!), so to get between bungalows, campsites, and the “town”, you got to walk through beautiful jungle, cashew and rubber plantations.  There was even a German/Thai bakery tucked away in the jungle about 3o minutes walk from our bungalow.  We made a point to go every morning.  The island was home to all sorts of wildlife, including families of monkeys and a large population of hornbills, a bizarre looking bird with a gigantic beak.  We had many of these hornbills living in the jungle next to our bungalow.  Supplies are brought onto the island by small ferry boat, basically just a large long-tail boat.  Ice, beer, fresh produce, meat, etc.  Most bungalows cooked food as well, incredibly delicious and fresh food, and baked their own bread.  Fish came from the beaches and bays around the island; one night we had barracuda, it’s flesh half-way between chicken and tuna (firm yet moist and crumbly).

The hornbill in all its majesty

On another chain of islands, part of a national park, we camped for a while.  We would wake up, snorkel, cook a lunch of ramen noodles on my diesel stove, snorkel some more, read, sleep in the hammock, and perhaps drink warm beer.  A park-run restaurant was a last-resort when we ran out of food, it was overpriced and just plain nasty.  Here we saw large packs of native red-faced macaques swinging through the canopy over our head, and much more wildlife.  I narrowly avoided a moray eel while snorkeling in some shallow sandy water, the same bit of water where we saw at least a dozen baby leopard sharks.  Here we crossed paths with a tour guide who, although we weren’t one of his clients, took us out on his boat for snorkel trips and stayed up late with us drinking cheap beer.  He had connections with the kitchen staff at the restaurant, hauling out cases of beer and huge blocks of ice (worth their weight in gold on the island) after the restaurant shut.  Inevitably he would also bring these pitchers and icebergs with him on the daytime snorkeling trips, passing around the cold and flat beer until we all had our fill.

One moment that I’ll never forget this trip was our discovery of the glowing phosphorescence in the bay around us.  Nobody told us about this.  Jennifer and I were sitting out on the pier looking at the stars on a moonless night after dinner.  Soon the generators from our bungalow turned off (there is no power on the island, only a few generators that run for about 2 hours each night). As it got darker my eyes adjusted, and like a desert sky the stars exploded into our view.  I chucked a small rock into the water and suddenly I’m looking at another field of stars dancing below me.  I walked down the steps and put my hands in the water, startled by the swirling galaxy I created.  I’ve seen phosphorescence only once before in the Puget Sound on a camping trip, however it was faint and nothing like this.  Quickly I ran up the cliffs to our bungalow and grabbed my snorkel and mask.  After a little hesitation imagining stinging jellyfish and sharks just under the black water, I jumped in.  My world exploded in dazzling blue-green light, and as I kicked and paddled the swirling galaxy enveloped me.  For at least an hour we played around like children in the midst of discovery.  Finally after my skin pruned up and sleepiness started overcoming me, I crawled out like a primordial beast, phosphorescence still clinging to my dripping skin like iridescent freckles.

It was hard to adjust back to the pace of our working life after this trip.  Thankfully our students keep us smiling and remind me again of a child’s wonder and excitement, just as we felt swimming in our swirling galaxy.

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