Saturday, January 28, 2006

Thailand - Krabi and Similan Islands

Railay beach, Krabi
During the first Chinese New Year since moving to Singapore we did what most foreigners here do … take advantage of the extra time off and leave the country.
Chinese New Year (or lunar New Year) is actually the only time in the year where Singapore somewhat shuts down. Even the malls are almost empty with only a few shops not closing the shutters for the holiday.

We decided on taking a 16 day trip to Thailand, starting in Krabi and work our way north to Khao Lak with stopover in Phang Nga Town.

"James Bond" Island
From there we booked a long tail boat to take us to the famous James Bond island, which is basically just a rock in a bay that was shown in the 70’s Bond movie “The man with the golden gun” Today it’s overrun with tourist that take a day trip from Phuket.  The mangroves were definitely more spectacular, especially with the scenery of the bay opening to the ocean.

Big shark fin?
(mangroves at Phang Nga Bay)
Is this for real or do I have blur eyesight?
(Phang Nga Bay)

Longtail boats having a low tide break

Sad evidence of the Tsunami
We settled for a few days in Khao Lak before boarding our liveabord boat to the Similan & Surin islands.
Khao Lak has been one of the towns hardest hit by the Tsunami on Dec 26, 2004. Just over a year later, the scope of the disaster was still very much visible. Especially the beachfront properties, down the hill from the main village, were mostly deserted. Damaged hotel, washout out buildings, swimming pools that turned into biotopes… The evidence of the tragic event was very much present; the site definitely had a spooky feel to it. 

Breakfast at our resort in the
middle of a coconut plantation
The village set on a plateau up a hill was not affected by the wave itself; however the tourism infrastructure was largely "damaged". There were only few visitors in Khao Lak, the locals were very appreciative of the small number of tourists that came and stayed… bringing some form of income back into the community.
Our resort, bungalows set in a small coconut plantation, was not affected by the Tsunami and gave an resemblance of how this town must have looked like before the wave.

Christal clear water in the Similan islands
We boarded a liveaboard from Khao Lak for a four day trip to the amazing underwater paradise of Similan Islands Marine National Park. Nine uninhabited tropical islands in the Andaman Sea and the Surin Islands. Which is also a Marine National Park, located on the border with Burma.  On the way back we also logged two dives at the well known Richelieu Rock… WOW!

Just before the night dive

Four days of diving, sleeping, eating on the M/V Andaman was a fun experience trip with exceptional diving. Food is always a highlight on dive trips, diving may look like low-key physical exertion, but be warned, it burns the fat. A hungry diver encounter on the boat would be worse than a shark attack in the water!

On the liveaboard we met a great group of people from across the globe and learned of other great dive sites for future trips… three of them we would meet earlier than expected, more in the next update.