I got up early this morning to send the blog of our latest adventure; yesterday we drove down to San Rioa National Park (South of where we are staying) and there we managed to climb a mountain and explore a cave system. It was extremely humid and through the exertion, I sweated at least 2 litres of water and managed to turn my legs into rubber on the descent. I don’t think I need to visit the gym today so will spend some time on the internet.
It was extremely fortunate that we went into the cave system as we found a group of young Thai students in there, they had been lost for several hours and were desperate for us to show them the way out. Luckily, Jamie had brought his video camera to film the caves and we found it useful as its emitted light was very bright. Though we could see where we were going (mostly), it was really where Jamie was going, so we had to follow and stumble with great care.
Later, to cool off Sarah and I had a swim on a quite gorgeous beach alongside a fishing village, we ignored the seemingly million jellyfish intent on stinging us. Jamie managed to coax one of the local women into cooking him some fried rice and pork, I don’t know how he does it as she couldn’t speak English and his Thai is non-existent. He smugly sat on an upturned boat and scoffed the lot, watched on by ravenous local dogs. Sue told me later that he had also tried to get the woman to make him an omelette. Hmm, rice and pork was being a bit cheeky, but then I suppose that is Jamie for you!
A day spent in San Rioa Park is always special, we have been several times over the years. The scenery is stunning, the beaches are deserted, and the locals are so friendly. We had lunch at the Ranger Station located at the far end of the park, which itself is in a huge ancient volcanic crater. Afterwards, as is now traditional, we took a walk through the mangroves, throwing berries at each other. Exasperatingly, this year Jamie and Sarah were far more accurate than when they were younger and gave as good as they got. When hit, the little fruits do sting greatly (I tried to not encourage them by visibly flinching, showing that they hurt). Towards the end of the boardwalk, Sarah and ganged up on Jamie, cornering him underneath a watch tower and there he paid the price for all those earlier sneaky little throws. He surrendered only after being hit so many times he was beginning to look like a Dalmatian (dog).
Coming across a troupe of Macaques (monkeys), we spent some time feeding them some of the meal we had brought. We then set off looking for Dusky Langurs (also monkeys) reputedly living in the mangroves but failed to find them, so we paused awhile at a Ranger Station for the family monkeys (Jamie and Sarah) to have drinks. Later, while we were still ‘monkeying around’, Sue enjoyed herself using the binoculars, looking at the bird life, butterflies and mudskippers in the mangroves. She later chatted with a few local villagers as Sarah and I went back to the beach, to recover some flip-flops she had left there, of course they were mine and she had borrowed them!
A few days ago, we did something we always said that we would do. In fact, secretly Sarah and I had been talking and planning to do this all year. We drove northwest to the largest body of water in Thailand, Kaen Kratchaen Dam, located near the Burmese border. We have been there many times and it’s very beautiful and very remote. Three years ago, by accident we discovered a place called Paradise Boat resort. It is situated down a very muddy cart track next to the lake; and frankly it IS close to paradise! The resort is made up of several Sampans (boats) built/floating on the shore within their own concrete pools. Their interiors are absolutely 6 stars, the views across the lake are unbelievably stunning.
On the previous occasions we have been we just had lunch and been the only guests. I have often wondered whether a Thai millionaire had once discovered this spot by accident and decided that it would be a unique and beautiful spot to build a very plush and stylish resort. This time, unlike on previous occasions when just the staff were around, the English-speaking owner was present. Sarah and I had planned that we would stay in one of the boats and though at first a little reluctant to comply, the owner accepted our request and booked us into one of the Sampans near the entrance.
In conversation, she confessed that she and her wealthy husband had discovered this spot on a day out from their business in Bangkok and had decided to build themselves a weekend Sampan here to enjoy the location. She then persuaded him to build some more Sampans and a restaurant and let her run it as a resort.
As expected, our Sampan was soooooo nice, very luxurious, there had been no expense spared on fittings. We were surprised when as soon as we checked in, people in uniform started to arrive. It seemed that the General of the Thai Armed Forces was having a party in the garden next to the lake to celebrate his wife’s birthday. This turned out a few days later to not be true.
That afternoon we swam in the lake, canoed around a small island and then hired some bicycles and went for an exhausting evening ride.
That night, after we had dressed for dinner and seated ourselves on the veranda by the restaurant, a stage and tables had been set up next to the shoreline and a great many guests dressed in military uniform and ball gowns had arrived. Chatting to one of the party, Sarah found that it was the general’s wife’s 34th birthday, but to me she looked a lot more like 50yrs old. Of course, you can guess that the ordinary smartly uniformed ranks were waiting on the tables, and it was the officers who were doing the celebrating. On a large stage set up for the purpose, they provided us with our evening entertainment, but I must admit that If I had paid to watch I would have wanted my money back, the professional dancers were good, but the Thais do like to karaoke, and they are mostly dire at it. As the only guests staying in the resort, we had been invited to join the party, but we turned it down, preferring to eat and watch from the sanctuary of the restaurant. We knew we would be invited to the stage to make fools of ourselves and sing.
As I was taking photos of the stage acts from the shoreline, the General, his wife and his very pretty daughter came over to our table and spoke to Sue, they again requested that we join in with their celebrations. His daughter was quite taken with Jamie and wanted a photo of them together, which a great many were taken. We again politely refused, thanked them and made our back to our Sampan. The party went on well into the small hours.
To our great surprise, the following morning at breakfast we discovered that quite a lot of the party goers had decided to stay and had also checked into some of the other Sampans. The stage and tables had somehow magically disappeared.
Later, after checking out of the resort, we decided to go further into the jungle than we have been before on previous visits. I filled the car up with petrol and we headed off further into the jungle along a dirt track towards Pran Buri falls. After quite a distance with a few stops for me to get out of the car and walk ahead to check the road surface, we came to a forest encampment and were stopped by a barrier. En route there had been plenty of evidence of wild elephants and also leopards. On one occasion we came across a huge monitor lizard and swarms of colourful butterflies. The camp seemed deserted except for three Rangers, who showed no interest in us. Sue, Sarah and Jamie went off for a walk along the river while I nosed around the campsite. I was glad when they returned as it had started to drizzle, and I was sure that if it rained heavily, we wouldn’t have been able to get the car back up and over the mountains on the road we had just come. However, with a lot of slipping and sliding we did get back and after-all it didn’t rain heavily, and we regretted that we had left without exploring further. Sarah professed that she would love to go back there one day and camp herself, and I think she probably will. We all enjoyed that little trip, what a brilliant day!
On our next trip we went to Lawana. We discovered the place years ago, it has a beautiful infinity pool overlooking a river and fishing village, so picturesque. As usual we were the only guests, we had lunch and then a swim in the pool. Afterwards, Sarah and I took a walk up the river towards the sea. There was a police boat in the middle of the estuary stopping and searching the fishing boats returning from the sea. From the pool we had been watching the boats using binoculars but couldn’t see clearly what the police were searching for. We spent a pleasant hour sitting on the bank observing the police at work. As the fishing boats entered the estuary, they were being watched by the police. If they did anything suspicious, then they pulled them in for boarding and a search. They were looking for drugs. We watched in interest the panic onboard the fishing boats when the crew spotted the police boat, and then dumped the packets of drugs overboard. We knew they were drugs, because they were floating onto the beach in front of us!!! Of course, when the boat had been searched, there were no drugs on board, so the police let them go.
We knew the police had watched them dumping the drugs overboard, but I suppose like the fishermen, they play the game as well. The drugs had gone and the fishermen had been encouraged to fish, in a fashion. And everybody avoided the fuss and paperwork! The irony was, that at 5 o’clock the police boat steamed away into the harbour, the officers got onto their mopeds and went home. Of course, there were still fishing boats entering estuary, this time there was no panic and surprises.
At around 5.15 pm a larger Navy boat sailed into the estuary and made its way down the river, I guess it had been out at sea hunting the bigger boats that were servicing the smaller fishing boats. It had been an interesting afternoon.
Well, I have loads more to tell, but not the time to tell it….. must be off, or they will be wondering where I am.