Blog // Tales from the trail

03 Jul
2015

The Windy Island, Thailand

By Keith

A lesson we'd since forgotten from a previous trip to Thailand, was just how 'off' an off-season could be. The off-season is when one should consider embarking upon bucket-list Thailand, and you'll probably only come across a smattering of fellow tourists in the process. Pick a lesser known island however (so much so that other than for dugongs, its other guidebook recommended characteristic, is that it is lesser known) and you are pretty much guaranteed to be the only visitors on said island.

Understandably so however, given the white knuckle boat crossing Corallie remarked upon. Another lesson we can also advise on is that the slender long-tail boats are much better suited to calmer seas. Even local fishermen had opted not to brave the waters until the winds had died down.

Thus whilst otherwise deserted, we were at least glad to be inside our little, stilted beach hut at Relax Libong Resort, holed up for the stormy weekend.

Our beachfront accommodation

Our beachfront accommodation

Once the rain had stopped and the wind had subsided a little however, we braved a walk along the beach and were shocked by the amount of junk that had washed ashore during the storm. Some of it was natural detritus, but there was also a large amount of plastic, everything from bottles to dolls heads and all sorts of chunks of recognisable and unrecognisable stuff in between. Most likely washed down from the more developed and popular spots to the north we surmised, perhaps an off-season for things to recover wasn't such a bad thing after all.

Back at the hut, and mid-contemplation about the issue, from nowhere a small army of minions charged out onto the beach, bags in hand and targeting (it appeared) the plastic bottles.

The minions collecting bottles from the beach junk

The minions collecting bottles from the beach junk

Keen to do our bit, Corallie marched us over to a gentleman who looked vaguely in charge of the whole operation. It transpired they were indeed collecting plastic bottles, with the aim of selling on for recycling - 10 baht per kilo of plastic, 3 baht per kilo of glass and the prizely sum of 1 whole baht for each can collected. A bag was kindly offered and we hit the beach, determined to help scavenge, squash and bag a bounty and prove we could do our bit too!

However come handover point, our fellow collectors appeared less than impressed by our bag of not-so-squeaky-clean bottles, with a chirpy "thanks but no thanks" when we offered to donate our sack to their stash. Nevertheless we noted it was still loaded onto their moped sidecar, along with the rest of the bags and off the scooter whizzed into the jungle, minions clinging onto the top and sides of the arrangement.

Retiring to our hut, the idyllic spot we were perched on, just above high tide, suddenly seemed a little less desirable; as the gentle breeze that had been blowing for the latter part of the afternoon had become more of a howling gale now that the sun was down. Inside it was difficult to distinguish between gusts of wind, swooshing palms and the crashing ocean. A couple of times I was sent to the window to investigate whether the sea was still in its correct place and not lapping against the window, as we settled in for a stormy night, our stilted hut shaking in response to the stronger gusts.

Awake the following morning, but perhaps not as well rested as we had hoped, we decided endeavours should be made to explore the east coast of the island, in search of the dugong population. Breakfasted and armed with a moped loaned from one of the staff and the limited likelihood of success, we set off towards the nature reserve area marked on our rough map.

Initially progress was good, until the hard road ran out, at which point we trundled more slowly, slipping and sliding the whole way on the skinny tyres, which by now were well and truly caked in mud. Soon enough it appeared we could go no further by moped, but the familiar noise of crashing waves encouraged us that we were close enough to continue on foot. Sure enough, after circumnavigating a small swamp, we arrived at the sea and promisingly, mangroves - an indicator of a sea grass area and potential dugong habitat.

Wetlands in the National Park

Wetlands in the National Park

However as promised by our contact, the sea was far too rough to see anything and we begrudgingly went back to the moped, only to find it wouldn't start.

Recalling past issues with the mopeds, we checked the stand was down, the seat was locked and all other potential sources of interlocks we felt may inhibit the beast from starting. The kick start had also long since rusted shut, and devoid of further solutions we resulted to pushing the useless lump of bike back along the muddy path from which we arrived.

Keith pushing useless lump of bike home

Keith pushing useless lump of bike home

After about a kilometre of pushing, various further failed attempts of resuscitation and a brief discussion on how we were going to break the news to the moped's owner (if we ever got back), Corallie mentioned something about the brake light... Surely it couldn't be that simple! A quick squeeze of the lever and the bike sprung into life. Somewhat abashed, we climbed back on and skidded our way back to the town.

One final stop we had to try, was the tower we had seen from the bay; which on closer inspections actually transpired to be a newly-built dugong watching tower, perched at the end of a rickety looking causeway protruding out from the fishing village.

The long, rickety causeway out to the tower

The long, rickety causeway out to the tower

The community's picturesque mosque, hidden from the shoreline

Life looks very calm in the sheltered bay

Life looks very calm in the sheltered bay

Whilst the community is dugong friendly, unfortunately fishing nets aren

Whilst the community is dugong friendly, unfortunately fishing nets aren't :(

Fortunately the tower itself was much more solid than the walk out, however despite affording an impressive view of the eastern flank of the island, no dugongs were to be seen.

The view back of the fishing community from the watchtower

The view back of the fishing community from the watchtower

On the plus side however, at least we had a fully working moped to return in time for some R&R before another windswept meal and night in the hut!

Keith, hacking up a pineapple after a tough afternoon out!

Keith, hacking up a pineapple after a tough afternoon out!

Having not so much enjoyed the first boat trip, we opted for an early crossing the next morning, figuring the low tide would result in small waves and thus a smoother crossing. It appeared a popular option with the islanders also and so we all lined up to board the boat, now sitting much further down the slopping jetty. Keen to get things over with and not fully heeding the mimed, 'slippy' warning from the ticket lady, I proceeded down. My flip-flops soon lost traction, and whilst still standing I was nevertheless sliding (like a penguin as Corallie put it) uncontrollably down the ramp and towards the drink!

Low tide in the late afternoon - note the waves breaking in the distance

Low tide in the late afternoon - note the waves breaking in the distance

Thankfully one of the boatmen managed to catch hold of the top of my backpack just in time for me to briefly change my direction of travel and swing myself onto the boat with a thud.

Dark clouds hovering ominously over our route back to the mainland

Dark clouds hovering ominously over our route back to the mainland

Fortunately the crossing itself was much less eventful second time around and before long we were back on the mainland and making our return to Trang.

Comments on this posting:

  • Carolina: Brilliant! I'm loving reading about your travels. Have fun 😊
  • Shuffler: looks as though you could have done with a mountain bike on your island trip.

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