We had a drive around the village and found the local market just in time for dinner. Westerners are obviously a bit of a novelty because we got a lot of looks/ stares. A few people spoke English but that didn’t matter because Matt has become a pro at ordering food in Thai, “Ao neung somtam khap” (I would like one papaya salad please).
The drawcard of this area is the huge man-made (dam) lake and the beautiful mountains that surround it.
The limestone mountains ( karsts) are the remains of an ancient coral stretching from China to Borneo.
Some of the karsts rise up to almost 1,000 metres high, making them three times the height of those in nearby Phang Nga Bay and Halong Bay in Vietnam.
The best view is from on the lake so we hired a longtail boat (after being pursued by our ‘boatman’ around the jetty) for a 2 hour leisurely cruise.
It was magic seeing the odd shaped cliffs towering over the water.
Part of the lake is home to a floating restaurant and cabins where you can stay the night. We pulled in for a quick look. It would be a beautiful spot to wake up to the sun coming up over the mountains.
We’re very puzzled why this area isn’t more well known and packed with more tourists (there were hardly any) . It’s stunning scenery, probably the best we’ve seen on the Asia portion of our trip, and up there with something like the Grand Canyon we reckon. We imagine it is something like the Milford Sound which we definitely will make it to some day.
After our tour we hopped back on the bike and went through the National Park towards the coast and Khao Lak.
The Khao Lak area is a coastal series of beaches that was one of the most devastated parts of Thailand from the 2004 Tsunami. There is a memorial park which is home to the Police Boat that was washed ashore with the wave and still sits where it ended up 2km inland.
There is also a tsunami museum which has information and statistics from the tsunami as well as some videos showing the devastation. Incredible to read that the wave can reach speeds of 500km/hr in the open ocean.
The area of Khao Lak has many nice beaches stretching along the coast so we got in a bit of sunning ourselves and reading, mainly late afternoon, the midday sun was far too hot and burning for us.
Another great place to see the sun set over the Andaman Sea.
We found a great Italian cafe that made good coffee and yummy pizzas. When we were having dinner there one night we made a friend and thought she was probably capable of driving us home.
This bike was probably more suitable.
She was such a neat kid and liked hanging out with us for an hour or so, Matt was a little worried I was going to take her home with us.
About 40 minutes north of Khao Lak is the island of Ko Kho Khao, only a 10 min boat trip from the mainland. For $2.20 NZ (including 2 bottles of water) it was neat to have our bike driven onto a longtail, no need to wait for the car ferry to leave.
Up until this point our seeing snakes in the wild count was at two (one in America and one in Cambodia), in the space of about an hour and a half on this island the tally was up to five. The first was on our way back down the island, a 1.5-2m brown snake in the middle of the other side of the road but crossing towards our side. Matt was driving and didn’t see it initially so by the time I saw it, it was right beside us. I wobbled the bike in my attempt to get further away from it, Matt was wondering what was going on, then he wanted to turn around to have a look at it. No thank you, so I got off the bike while he went to see it.
After that ordeal we decided to spend some time on the beach and had a good hour in the sun before Matt noticed something in the tree above us. Snake number 2 was having a snooze right above our heads! You can see it curled around the branch in the middle of the photo. It was green probably under a metre long.
Obviously I’m no snake fan, so told Matt that I’d had enough of this island so we headed home immediately. What did we see on the road back, snake number three – albeit its head was squashed but its body was still flapping around furiously. Needless to say I was pleased to leave “Snake Isle”.
Our accommodation just happened to be across the road from a 3x a week market that had food, drink, clothing, souvenirs etc. It was pretty excellent and well patronised by locals & tourists. We had dinner there twice along with one stall that made fantastic, flair bartended 60 baht (around NZ$2.20) mojitos.
Next we were off to the No. 1 Southern Thailand tourist destination, the island of Phuket.