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Pha-Nga Bay

November 18  

A guide and driver picked us up early from the Maritime Park and Spa Resort  in Krabi and drove north where we transferred to another van with three other couples, a second guide and different driver.  They drove us to a dock near Phang Nga where we met more tourists and all climbed into a very long long-tail boat. 


The boat took us out into Ao Phang Nga and docked at a large float. 

We transferred from there to small inflated canoes, each holding two people and an oarsman.  In our case two people, an oarsman and a teddy bear. 

We were paddled part way around an island and through a water borne mangrove forest tucked up tight against the island’s limestone cliffs. 

Waves, rain and wind have carved the limestone to look like the stone has dripped down the side of the steep cliffs as hot wax drips down a straight sided candle.  Not only has the wave action undercut the cliffs but the elements have carved out large caves with open roofs.  At higher tides, as it was when we were there, getting into the cave means that each person lies flat on their backs to get through the low entry tunnels.  Sherrie in the front leaned back on Terry; Terry leaned back nearly to the oarsman and he leaned back over the water like some strange kind of aquatic limbo dance. 
In and out of caves (some entrances with less headspace than others) and tucking in where the waves had undercut the cliffs we all did the limbo. 
At one of these places we saw a very large lizard (but wasn’t fast enough with the camera) about 1.25 metres in length.  
Rather than going completely around the island to return to the float and long-tail boat, we cut through an extremely large cave which opened up to the other side of the island.   
Back on the long-tail, they skimmed us across the water and weaved through other limestone islands and pulled up to one with a landing area.  

The beach was littered with souvenir stalls which we attempted to bypass.  Our goal was to cross the narrow expanse of the island to get some pictures of James Bond Island – a pinnacle of limestone jutting up from the water and made famous by the James Bond film, “The Man with the Golden Gun”.  

It was another twenty minute boat ride to the floating Muslim village of Ko Panyi .  This village is built on stilts and floats over the water and is the only one of it’s kind in Thailand .  We were told (accuracy not confirmed) that these people came from Indonesia and asked Thailand for some land.  When they were refused, they built their village over the water.   
In planning our trip, serious consideration was given to staying in this village.  A number of factors made the option difficult including perceived transport problems, and the fact that the once quaint and quiet village has now added a row of buildings set up to feed multitudes of boating tourists as well as souvenir stalls to entice them to part with their money.  Great for the village prosperity, not so good for those looking for authenticity.  
While others finished lunch and shopped, we set off in search of the village behind the commercial glitz.  It was there, hiding behind a door, past more souvenir stalls, a lady with a monkey and down some narrow walkways.    
Sherrie had a conversation with a young school girl who practiced her English.  “Where did you learn your English,” we asked her. 

“At my school,” she answered pointing to a white building on stilts. 

“May I take your picture in front of the school?” 

“Yes,” she answered and stood proudly with her fingers in a peace sign “V”. 

Taking a few steps further down the walk, we saw the girl’s sister (approximately three years old) sitting in a round black plastic tub of water on the boarded entrance to their home..  It seemed to be more of a cooling bath in the shade of the porch.  She giggled with delight when Sherrie showed her the picture she took.

A boy came riding by on a bicycle.  Not much room to ride but boys and bikes seem to go together whatever the circumstances. 

On the loop back we came across a boy and girl on another porch.  The boy was sitting down with his legs stretched our straight in front.  Between his big toes were stretched loops of plastic fishing line like a skein of yarn.  He tried to unravel it smoothly as the girl wound it around a plastic water bottle that would probably act as their fishing reel.  The line became tangled so he loosened the stretch between his toes and stood up in an attempt to solve the problem. 
Others may prefer a string of beads, a flag or an "I was here" T-shirt but our favourite souvenirs are pictures and memories of meeting people by their homes doing everyday things.  We reluctantly left the village in the wake of the long-tail boat, returned to the dock and transferred back into the van.    

Elephant riding with Island Safari seemed like a very touristy thing to do ... but how often does one get a chance to ride on the gentle giants.  We took off our shoes and climbed onto a two person chair balanced on its back and secured by ropes.
At first it seems that hanging on tight might be the way to go, but soon the rhythm becomes comfortable and the mind has an opportunity to appreciate the movement as muscles worked below bare feet.  With gentle bare foot nudging behind the ears and a stick upon the forehead the driver was able to communicate instructions to the elephant.
A line of about five elephants made its way down a hill and followed a creek bed. It was explained to us that elephants are very social and loyal friends.  They are very much set when it comes to which other elephants they prefer to be in front of or behind. 

Twenty to thirty minutes seemed to be a long time when we did not know how comfortable, or uncomfortable, the experience might be ... but it was just right for our first time out. 

Our ride was followed by a baby elephant show with a young male (the only male at the camp) and female they are raising.   Working elephants are mostly female.  They are easier to train and work with.  Males are more prone to temper tantrums.  The “babies” were about six years old. 
They put them through some “circus-style” stunts but each exercise has a value in reality. 

They sat, walked on oil cans, stood on two back legs, two front legs, walked on two back legs then two front legs, took bows, played the harmonica and slam dunked a basketball into a hoop.    

When they asked for volunteers for a Thai massage Sherrie volunteered.   Laying face down on a foam mat they put a checker cloth on top and the elephant proceeded to rub and push with one of it’s huge feet.  It was gentle enough, but the weight of the foot was enough that Sherrie hoped he didn’t loose his balance.  The exercise was finished off with a kiss on the head. 
When they asked for a male volunteer, Sherrie quickly nominated Terry.   He, a little concerned with the decision, was asked to lay face up on the foam mat and they covered him with the checker cloth.  A little massage on the tummy with a foot was followed by a massage of the inner thighs with the trunk.  Nervous are we?  Again the elephant finished off with a sucking kiss on his face with it’s trunk.  
  The guide then said that if anyone wanted to buy some banana’s for twenty Baht they could feed the babies.  

We pulled a twenty Baht bill out and the boy elephant took it from our hand and went over to a booth on the side of the ring, gave the money to an attendant then picked up a basket of bananas by the handle and brought the basket back to Sherrie who took the basket from him and handed him bananas one at a time to his trunk.  How quickly he got it into his mouth and brought back his trunk for another. 
Then the guide said to feed him one directly in the mouth.  She did.  A big mouth. 

After he realized that it was the last banana, Sherrie gave him back the basket which he gently took by his trunk.  He backed up, crossed one front leg over the other, made a little bow and gave a little squeak of “thank you”.   
Before getting back in the van we were shown a rubber tree demonstration including the making of a mat. 

This is how the rubber is sold to the manufacturers who melt down the approximately 45cm wide by 90cm long mat adding chemicals to manipulate the natural substance into the hardness or softness necessary for the manufacturing of different goods. 

When asked how many of these mats it would take to make an automobile tire our guide didn’t know, but, he knew how many condoms could be manufactured from one mat.  Six hundred and eighty.   Now if we only knew how many condoms in an all-season radial, we could figure it out
We returned safely to Krabi despite the torrential rain accented by lightening, thunder and flooding streets.   So hard did it rain and flash flood that the hotel’s pool was closed until they could have it cleaned.    

November 19

A travel day.  A long travel day.  An early morning flight from Krabi to Bangkok .  A long layover at the Bangkok airport for our late afternoon flight to Hong Kong . 

By the time we got into our room at the Kimberly Hotel in Kowloon it was 9:30pm.  With more cream on our sunburnt backs, we hit the sack. 

It would be another early morning.

click here to continue to November 20 and to Hong Kong ...

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