January 17, 2017 …. a bit more
When we were in Bangkok we knew one of the focuses we wanted in Thailand was to enjoy snorkeling. Looking at all the information we saw we didn’t want to go to the area known as Phuket because that’s a crowded, party area. I went online looking for the best snorkeling in Thailand and was directed to five islands. One of these five – Koh Surin where they said you could snorkel right outside your hotel room. So I booked a hotel right on the beach at Surin Beach. When we arrived at our hotel, we found out this was a little, pretty beach cove on Phuket (there are many beach coves here). Koh Surin is an Island far away…. Surin beach is one of the many areas on Phuket. Ooops! No snorkeling outside the hotel here.
That night we booked a day’s snorkeling trip for the next day.
A 10-hr day trip to get to another crowded beach a distance away… and 45-minutes of snorkeling. That was pretty… but not the snorkeling experience we wanted.
Back to the internet. This time we saw 2-day boat adventure for divers… but we could snorkel along with them. We were serious – we wanted to snorkel so we started signing up for it. It was around the Similan Islands (a collection of 9 mostly uninhabited islands (one of the top diving areas in Thailand).
Since Koh Surin was still “calling us” I kept looking and found we could take a boat to that island and even stay there overnight. However, they only had tents and I thought we wanted more comfort. The agency I was communicating with said there was a nearby island that had an eco-friendly resort. We looked at it on line and were sold.
For timing I needed to make sure we could do the Similan Island boat snorkeling adventure, spend a night at a hotel on the way to the Koh Surin, and then have our adventure in Koh Surin for a few days. I asked the Similan boat people how far north they could leave us off and the Koh Surin Island people how far south they could pick us up from – to decide where to spend the night in between. Then I started looking for a place in that area. There were cheep places and expensive…. But one stood out. It was in a jungle-type area, along a stream, and you could see elephants bathing from the rooms. What a concept. Snorkel with the fish & corals for a couple days and then kayak with the bathing elephants. This is out of our regular life-routines. I signed everything up (using two booking agencies and a third for the “elephant” hotel”. While signing us we made a slight switch and booked the boat for a 5-day adventure rather than the 2-day.
The boat adventure began smoothly. We got picked up at our hotel on Surin Beach and met some of the other guest (all divers rather than snorkelers). From Finland, Sweden, and Australia . Arriving an hour later onto the boat, we took off our shoes and didn’t see them again until we left the boat 5 days later. Our room was small as we expected and we lived in our swimming suits.
Most days were set with 4 dives for the scuba divers each day (there were about 14 divers) and 3 dives for Annie and me (snorkelers). There are 9 islands in this area. When we were close to islands we were permitted to get near (most of them are uninhabited… like Jurassic Park) we’d usually take a little dingy boat close to the rocks and go out for an hour. We’d see beautiful fish…. Annie saw a shark… we saw some turtles (one swimming faster than I thought possible)… lots of star fish…. Jelly fish…. One of the best experiences was to swim above the divers… and we got to have a bubble bath in the air bubbles they sent up to us.
The divers would talk about the barracudas, octopuses, and other creatures they saw further down below.
The food on board was a treat. Usually rice, Pan Thai Noodles with sea food, a veggie dish, and fruit. Also some dish with pork and another with chicken.
Most of the passengers were from Scandinavia. Beer and smoking tobacco was part of their reality.
One evening one of the Danish passengers celebrated his birthday. Of course I broke into my balloons for the celebration (it wasn’t the first or last time I did that during this adventure). I even joined them having a beer that evening (my first in I don’t remember how many years).
I had fun playing with the crew with my balloons as well. They spoke almost no English…. But had the most friendly smiles and really appreciated the balloons.
In all the days on the boat… we never got sick…. We had a wonderful time in the water … on the boat … with the crew… and with the other guest. We never had a strong desire to learn scuba diving… but who knows? It may get onto our bucket list some day?
When the boat docked, a few families with young kids were waiting for us… the families of the crew. From the boat I shot some balloons to these kids before we were set to get off the boat. Then I played with them for a bit before we got into our van to depart to our hotel.
We got into the van with a couple from Liverpool and one of the diving instructors (from Finland). I was looking over all of our notes and couldn’t find the confirmation for our hotel. I remembered all the moments leading up to booking it … organizing for the boat people to drop us off there after the snorkeling trip and for the island people to pick us up the next day…. But I couldn’t find the confirmation and there was no email confirmation. We were getting concerned. This hotel only had 4-5 rooms and it was in the middle of nowhere. I looked on line (we had G3) and the hotel had no rooms available, so if we arrived and there were no rooms for us, we’d have a long drive trying to find another room somewhere…. Also, by now the Liverpool couple and the Diving Instructor had been dropped off 40 minutes earlier. The driver had problems finding the hotel…. Getting off the paved roads and onto dirt roads. Finally we found it and pulled in as it was beginning to get dark. When we got out of the car the owners greeted us.
“Do we have a reservation?” I asked.
“You Americans?” they responded.
“Yes, from New York”. (It’s funny most people tell you what country they’re from… We always say we’re “New Yorkers”
“We have your reservation!” We were relieved. We got our bags out… I made some balloons for the owner’s children… and we were led to our room.
It was magical… living up to our dreams from their promo. We weren’t hungry, but the dinner looked too good to pass … and it was…. maybe the best meal we’ve had in Thailand.
The next morning we woke and took their kayak out the back to the elephants… about 3-5 minutes away and watched them bathe. We came for breakfast – another wonderful adventure…. Had a beautiful walk to see the elephants from the land… packed up…and waited for our ride. With about 10 minutes to go, the balloons came out again and the owner’s son and a few cousins came over for more fun. The driver arrived and waited for me to finish… then we left for the next adventure.
The ride was maybe 70-90 minutes to the next pier. The little boat was waiting for us. I made some balloons for the kids (kids of the boat people) and we took off. About 45 minutes later we arrived at our island. They loaded the truck with all the bags and hotel equipment then we piled on top of the luggage in the back of the truck and took off for the hotel (about 15-20 minutes away). We might have arrived at the hotel via the boat, but the tide was too low to get through the passage.
As we arrived at this hotel we were nervous that it wouldn’t live up to the “Elephant hotel” – that was so esthetically magical…. But this hotel surpasses everything we expected.
If this “read” is too long, sorry… Annie’s the “photojournalist”… I’m the guy with verbal diarrhea.
More later… Annie’s hour of drawing is almost done, and so’s my computer battery.
Additional note –
As we were finishing with these plans for this part of our adventures, I was expecting we’d end the 5 days snorkeling in the Similan Islands off the moving boat then we’d take five days on the island near Koh Surin – at some point taking a day trip to Surin Island one day for another snorkeling adventure. But the travel guy for the island eco resort said we need to take a ferry (Longtale) boat back to the pier and then another to Koh Surin for the daytrip… there’s no option to go directly from our nearby hotel island. He also said logistically and economically it would be best to get an early ride from the “elephant” hotel to the pier for a snorkeling day trip to Koh Surin… then back to the pier and then back to our Island. That would mean missing the elephants in the morning (the reason we booked that hotel). Also, after 5 days of snorkeling from the boat we thought we needed a couple days “off”. The bottom line – we’re not making it to Koh Surin.
Now that we’re at this island eco resort and are still “digesting” and processing the past week of adventures as well as this paradise around us, we have no regrets (as Piaf would sing) that we’re missing Koh Surin.