International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Thai Travel
Nga Bay Sea Safari
A walk across the street takes us away from Ao Nangs bustle
and past the food stalls selling barbecued chicken and papaya salad.
We clamber onto the traditional longtail boat and head for a shimmering,
turquoise-blue waterway, en route to one of Thailands most
tranquil islands, Koh Yao Noi. Were not going to hurry there,
though, as it would be rather silly to rush across one of the most
beautiful bays on the planet.
the celestial powers had travel-sense it would be deemed a sin to
come to the Andaman coast of Thailand and not see the Hong Islands
an archipelago of towering limestone karsts jutting vertically
out of the water and looming above us as we cruise Phang Nga bay.
We soon find ourselves meandering towards one of the bays
many hidden beaches, on Koh Lading ('paradise island' in Thai).
This is a small but picturesquely lovely stretch of white sand approached
across emerald waters, gliding just a metre above a placid coral
reef. We slowly approach the bleached-white beach with its giant
coconut trees and its lush jungle backdrop, not wishing to disturb
the tranquility by using the boats engine too much.
There are a few
tourists scattered about, lounging on the warm sand or snorkelling with
the fish, quietly contemplating and complementing the peaceful scene
we have encountered. All is serenity until the moment we spot the bouldering
wall, our eyes lighting up as we size up another of natures playgrounds.
looks like a worthy challenge for us to measure ourselves against,
its sharp, over-hanging limestone walls and stalactites creating
all sorts of contortionist challenges (or 'problems' in climbing
jargon).I am surprised to hear that this bouldering wall is actually
judged to be a relatively easy one, as it looks really difficult
to me. Bouldering is a rope-free variation of rock climbing, where
the climber sheds his gear and keeps only his rubber shoes and
chalk-bag (and his shorts unless he really wants to show off).
When the climber falls off the soft beach cushions his fall
unless the climber ascends too high, bouldering is as safe as
a walk in a park. It is also an extreme work-out for the upper
body in which it is easy to damage tendons and sinews.
climbing partner Fon manoeuvres left to right and up and down with
yogic bodily contortions, body held nearly parallel to the ground.
A handful of day-trippers relaxing on the beach watch, in puzzled
but idle amusement, no doubt wondering why anybody would bother
to exert themselves in such an extreme fashion in such a relaxing
place. Fon moves with feminine agility and poise and is made to
look even more graceful by comparison with me, her slightly superannuated
Western male climbing companion. I seem to be not so much rock climbing
as rock-falling-offing - this thankfully doesnt hurt, due
to Thailand's soft sand cushioning my frequent falls. After a while
Fon is glowing with perspiration, whilst I have virtually turned
into a human waterfall. Thankfully the welcomingly cool sea is just
a step away.
of the sea urchins nesting on the reefs floor we float on life
jackets to the other side of the bay and find ourselves peering through
windows of rocks out onto the myriad islands rearing sheer out of the
shallow but deep blue water of Thailand's Andaman Sea. Back in the boat,
our boatman is unsure if the tide is too low for us to be able to get
into the Hong lagoon. As the long-tail boats engine fades to a
stop we creep around the corner and see the opening to the lagoon, seemingly
guarded by a solitary bird standing in the water. The boat drifts until
it rests in the sand and there we are, standing in the middle of an
enormous lagoon encompassed by rock buttresses on all sides, like worshippers
in the nave of a vast karst cathedral. One massive stalactite is suspended
overhead, dripping with pure mineral water and donating a sweet afternoon
drink and shower. The Hong archipelago, the second stop on our island-hopping
Andaman Sea safari, is an archetypical tropical paradise.
We leave the lagoon
in search of a clandestine beach to melt into for a while before travelling
on to Koh Yao Noi. It doesnt take long to find a completely deserted
bay, where we collapse and take naps in the shade of the trees
there are no suitable rocks around for us to play on. In the shallows
a large monitor lizard takes the plunge and swims past our boat, its
family of three concealed by the rocks and waiting for it across the
bay, revealing themselves as it approaches.
on Koh Yao Noi, we receive what is almost door-to-door service,
but would be better described as beach-front to beach-front service,
as the boat comes to a halt on the beach directly in front of our
resort. We are greeted with sweet welcome drinks as we absorb the
tranquil beauty of the Koh Yao Island Resort, at the northern end
of the island. Large coconut and palm trees stand on the bright
green grass, shading the luxury bungalows. Each chalet faces the
resorts private beach, with its view of the islands further
away outlined in differing shades of blue. The silhouettes of nearby
islands are superimposed on those of islands in the middle distance,
with both sets of silhouettes superimposed on the outlines of islands
of the three sets of silhouettes is a different shade of blue, creating
the most beautiful island tableaux this author has ever seen. Our hotel
is all that you would expect of a tropical beach resort in Thailand.
Crisp white linen sheets adorned with tropical flowers decorate an oversized
bed. An outdoor shower is made private with natural stone tiles piled
high, and a separate living room is mostly enclosed by sheer drapes,
shimmering in the moonlight and creating a scene of such serenity that
I stop for a second to savour the moment. The resort provides us with
motorbikes and we follow the dirt road to Thakao Seafood Restaurant
for a veritable feast and for less than the price of a McDonalds
back home. Banana flower salad, vegetables fried in oyster sauce and
fresh fish are the prefect end to a day on the water.After a leisurely-spent
morning sunning ourselves by the pool and sipping fruit shakes we are
back in the boat with ropes and gear in tow, eager for an afternoon
of climbing and photography. We stop at the pier to pick up lunch, fried
rice wrapped in banana leaves, then race to get onto the rock-climbing
routes. The boatman pulls up to a spindly wooden ladder leading to a
bamboo platform that sits at the bottom of the rock wall and provides
spectators with a comfortable viewpoint to watch the action.
Soon I am ready to climb. As I rise higher and higher the panoramic
view of all the islands and lagoons becomes even more immense and my
beloved cousin Diana, bobbing up and down in the water below, becomes
smaller and smaller. This rock-face has arguably the second most beautiful
view in Thailand, after Railays incomparable Thaiwand Wall. There
is also a fair mixture of grades, so it is a good destination for the
relative novice as well as for the expert crag-hanger. Complete beginners
are recommended, before coming to Koh Yao Noi, to spend three days learning
to climb on nearby Railay.
After the climbing
we pause on the boat journey back in order to watch a party of Western
residents playing on a deep-water slack-line. This is a 4-centimetre-wide,
30- metre-long band stretched between 2 islands, which the person attempts
to balance on while walking from one island to the next and almost
invariably fails to manage, ending up with a 6 metre drop into the sea
and a swim back to the starting point. What is it about watching people
accidentally falling into water which makes spectators feel so happy?
Koh Yao Noi - The
Low DownLooking for seclusion, endless stretches of untouched white
sand beaches, a get-away with adventure and the ultimate in relaxation?
Koh Yao Noi, Thailand is your destination. From exciting landscapes
formed by limestone rocks, beautiful coral reefs and virgin beaches,
Thailand's Koh Yao Noi offers all you need for a tropical adventure
or beach retreat
For more on Thai adventure sports, snorkelling, kayaking and island-hopping,
check out www.andamanadventures.com
© Simon Ramsden October 2009
all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility
- no liability accepted by hackwriters.com or affiliates.