We had an amazing time on this trip. Seriously, amazing. We booked with John Gray’s Sea Canoe (http://www.johngray-seacanoe.com/) for the Expedition Express Self Paddle (http://www.johngray-seacanoe.com/thailand/exped_selfpaddle.htm), two days one night, 8,700 baht each with five of us (about 180 GBP/283 USD for 4-6 people).
Spending a day with our guide Fārūq exploring the hongs around Phang Nga bay and squeezing our way through caves barely big enough to swing a jellyfish was wonderful. A hong is the hollow inside those funny looking small islands that stick up out of the sea like toes in a bathtub. You can only access them through a cave and we had to lie down flat in our canoe to get through, noses virtually touching the rock ceiling – not for the claustrophobic, but VERY fun! Inside the hong was magical. The water a tropical turquoise, surrounded by huge forested walls enclosing the majestic mangroves, made for an eerie yet peaceful and serene island pocket. We sat for what felt like hours in silence gently bobbing on the water, listening to it gently lapping against our boat and the sporadic shrieking of monkeys and birds overhead.
In the evening they served us a mouth-watering seafood banquet aboard The Saucy Sue (ok, the name of the big boat escapes me) and we sat with the crew making beautiful offerings from banana leaves, fruit and flowers. We lit incense and candles before setting them on the water for the gods of the sea…
We slept that night just the five of us and our two guides, in tents on a tiny beach on one of the islands after paddling in the shallows lighting up the phosphorescent plankton like a trillion stars in the sea, it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
The next morning we breakfasted on the beach watched by a troop of ravenous monkeys before the seven of us paddled what must have been about 1000 kilometres to a beach on the opposite island. I became very aware of how teeny I am in this big bad world, sitting in a canoe with a squillion feet of navy blue water and goodness knows what else below me. It was fabulous.
We were a winning team, like Redgrave and Pinsent you might say, Andy and I won the race (yes race) back to camp. The reward for being first back was an alarmingly large water monitor lizard lazily sunning itself on the shore. As we drifted closer we realised our band of cheeky monkeys were bravely defending camp in our absence, chasing the lizard away, hurling abuse, and I’m almost certain I saw one of the little fellas give the intruder the finger. As per usual, by the time we’d whipped the camera out, the action was over. We slid to a halt and hopped ashore to congratulate our gallant defenders fully ready to bestow gifts of bananas and oranges. No such luck. Our “gallant defenders” had had rather a lot of fun while we’d been away, tissues strewn all over the beach and all our fruit gone, the place smelled strongly of monkey poop. The monkeys looked on innocently. We know what you did.
Our trip was rounded off by a rather exhilarating trip back to the mainland on a long tail boat, during which I genuinely thought the thing was going to capsize about every 3 seconds. All good fun.
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