‘Hey Boo (dad)’, Oliver said to me one afternoon as we lay around in the shallow water on the beach down in front of our accommodation. ‘Put your ear underwater’. I did. And heard a bubbling sound from underneath.
‘Did you just ask me to put my ear underwater so that I could hear you fart?’ I asked looking at him incredulously?
‘Yep’ he said bursting into laughter with a huge grin on his face before skittering back out of arms reach. Well that’s why we decided to go travelling with our kids. They add a certain something to the travel experience.
Underwater farts aside, it was a lovely afternoon. Lolling around in balmy water at Sabai Corner, palm trees swaying overhead, taking in view of karst islands scattered scenically across the bay and doing a whole lot of nothing really. Yes this has ben an overt attempt at making anyone reading jealous!
But it’s not all lolling around here at Koh Yao Noi. It’s turning into an experience of work and play. We play during the day, eat some wonderful food, and then dive onto the occasionally reliable wi-fi of an evening to chase down information and plan the days ahead.
I, for example, have just finished researching how to get from where we are now to Ranong – five hours north of Phuket. Relatively straightforward as it turns out, although the official Phuket website leaves one slightly concerned with comments like, and I quote: ‘And if all else has failed and you cannot find the bus you need, take heart: Right next to the building is a used car dealership…’. Is that meant to be funny?
Trains on the other hand are definitely not straightforward in the catching. One would assume that you book a train by visiting the website of the train operators and booking a seat. Thai rail did introduce an online booking system back in 2009, but in 2010 it stopped working and hasn’t been fixed since. You can email them to book but the response time is minimum two weeks and could be as long as a month! We however still have a week or so before we want to catch a train from Southern Thailand to Bangkok. I’m sure we can work it out by then… Either that or no one here actually catches the train. It just runs up and down the rails all day.
In between all this hard research work, we have found some time to play. Over the last few days we have caught a long tail boat out into the islands of Phang Nga Bay. A Ramsar site (a wetland listed under the Convention of Wetlands of international importance) as it turns out. Maybe I can claim this trip as a tax deduction… professional development! I have been working on Ramsar sites in Australia for a while now, at least while I was still working anyway.
It was a great day out. I love long tail boats. There’s something curiously adaptive about strapping a four cylinder turbo diesel engine from a second hand car to the top of a hand welded steel frame and connecting it to a 12 ft drive shaft with a propeller on the end. The engine just sits our there exposed to the elements and driving us along at 15 knots. Look out dugongs here we come!
We visited island after island ducking under their craggy underbellies, exploring hidden caves and lagoons. It was fabulous. If I was an old school pirate this is where I would hang out. And if I were Enid Blyton writing a Famous Five adventure story, this is where it would be set.
We met some nice German fellows on the boat during the day. There were only 7 of us. The next day we bumped into them at lunch and I tried to encourage Amy and Oliver to go and practice their German with them (they are learning at school). Amy and Oliver seemed a little uncertain so I jumped in to lead the way.
I told our German friends that I learnt some German in high school but could only remember one phrase. ‘Am Samstag gehen frau Fiedler nach Garmisch and essen ein schockoladen kucken auf dem fleugzeug’. Translation: ‘On Saturday Ms Fiedler goes to Garmish and eats a chocolate cake on the aeroplane.
‘This makes no logic’ our German friend replied – fortunately laughing. No it doesn’t but I’ve wanted to say that to a German for 26 years!
We also spent a day exploring the island on a mo-ped with side car. That was a bit of a thrill even though we never exceeded 20 km/hour. Our travel insurance doesn’t cover us for riding scooters. This however is the quietest little island and I, for better or worse, am no longer a drunken teenage hooligan. So we took a chance. We puttered around the island, all of about 14 km in three hours stopping for swims and fruit shakes along the way.
I told Pramot, our host here at Tabeak Viewpoint, what we had done that day. Turns out Pramot is also the islands policeman. He was horrified and proceeded to tell me how many scooters with side cars flipped over backwards going up the island roads one hill! All is well that ends well.
Pramot also showed us how to harvest, eat and drink coconuts. Amy and Oliver took they found on the ground up to dinner one night asking if it was any good. It wasn’t but Pramot took us down and harvested two fresh ones, whipped them open with a hatchet and stuck a straw in for us all to drink.
Today we paddled kayaks out to Koh Nok, a little island within 30 minutes paddling time (including stops for Amy and Oliver to jump over board and cool off). It was uneventful but very enjoyable.
Tommorow we leave Koh Yao Noi bound first for Phuket where we hope to board a bus to Ranong. From there we are headed up into the hills to the TCDF Eco Lodge near Pak Song. According to Wikipedia Pak Song is the ‘real’ Thailand. We’ll see.