On the Beach - Khao Lak and Koh Pra Tong
Trip Start Dec 25, 2008
41Trip End Mar 28, 2009
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
We had a great time in Khao Lak - the beach at our hotel was beautiful - hardly anyone on it, but the local fishermen. We spent much of our time walking on the beach, watching hermit and ghost crabs (yes, it's actually very entertaining!), soaking up the sun, and just plain relaxing. (I was also happy to be doing all of this in a lovely villa on the beach, especially knowing that my accomodations were not going to be as "comfortable" during the next part of my trip - about which I didn't know much, other than I was going to be living in someone's house in a tiny Thai village, on a remote island
The only downside to our time in Khao Lak was the perfect storm of financial/logistical mishaps that occurred for me - my ATM card wouldn't work (apparently, my bank banned ATM withdrawals in the ENTIRE country of Thailand), my cell phone was disconnected, my credit cards got turned off, and I lost my credit card pin #s . . . Thankfully, it all worked out, since I luckily realized all these things while still with Jason, and was able to use his phone to straighten some stuff out . . . whew! But our time in Khao Lak sadly drew to an end, which meant that Jason was heading back to NYC. My ride to Kuraburi picked me up on January 20th - from there I would catch a longtail boat to Koh Pra Tong, where I would volunteer with an Italian nonprofit organization to help protect sea turtles.
My time on Koh Pra Tong (about 10 days) was an experience that I will never forget - wonderful and memorable for so many reasons - not least of which is for the people that I met while on the island
My stay began with a lovely "welcome" performance of "New York, New York", sung with heavy Italian/Portuguese accents by four of the other volunteers/staff, as my boat pulled up to our "pier". I immediately felt at home on the island, as I was shown my room in the house where I would be living (owned by a woman named Fon), and the location where we would be eating our meals when not on a turtle "shift" - a lovely, shady area at a woman named Lamyung's house. Lamyung cooked all of our meals, which were inredibly delicious . . . We were located in a village called Lion's Village (also known as Pak Chok), so named since it had been re-built with support from Lion's Club International, after it had been destroyed by the tsunami. The village of about 100 people has about six "streets", a lovely school, and two cell phone towers (go figure). The organziation I was working with had been originally located at the Golden Buddha Beach Resort (the ecolodge on the other side of the island), but had relocated within the village, itself, after the tsunami completely wiped out the ecolodge and everything the organization had
(An Aussie journalist on the island at the time of the tsunami wrote a book recounting the horrific event - including a vivid description of the experience of the folks involved in the organization. They very sadly lost two staff members.)
I was happy to learn that there were a number of other volunteers on the island with me, since I'd had no idea if it would just be me - Daniella, Anna (my roommate while on the island) and Lucia (a kung fu expert, who gave us a lesson) from Switzerland; and, Julia, Sophie, John and Leslie from England. The staff included Karina from Portugal, Mik from England, and Por from Thailand, in addition to Monica and Claudio - the Italian scientists who head up the organization. Leslie and John had volunteered with the organization on a number of previous occasions - they're teachers in a school for the deaf, and so help out with preparing lessons for the schoolchildren in the village. (They also gave us many signing lessons - I'm proud to say that I can now ask you what your hobbies are and call you a bastard in British sign language.)
Our days pretty much looked like a mix of the following:
5:30 am: take the longtail boat to one of the Golden Buddha Beaches (we called them GBB 1, 2 and 3) to look for turtle tracks (indicating a nest had been dug the night before)
7:30 am: Breakfast, if not on early morning turtle track duty.
8:00 am: if not on the early shift looking for turtle tracks, ride bikes through the savannah and sand, leave them at the Sea View bar, and then walk the rest of the way to do "Observation from the Rock" - here we looked for turtles in the sea from Hornbill Hill, and registered their behavior if we saw any (I was the lucky one, seeing two). (We also did this in the afternoon as well, taking the boat out to the Rock and then picking up the bikes to ride them home.)
9:30 am: come back by boat from the beach if on the early turtle track shift, or get dropped off at Koh Ra to look for turtle tracks every 3rd day.
12:30 pm: Lunch
2:00 pm: get picked up from GBB if did the early morning "Obs from the Rock"
3:00 - 7:00 pm: Help out with some stuff around our "headquarters" - Ban Tao (Turtle House) and Mangrove House; ecology talks; or just relax. (On one day we went into the mangroves with some visiting scientists.)
7:00 pm: Dinner
Unfortunately, we didn't find any nests while I was on the island
I also had the great experience of seeing a colleague of mine from work (Pattie) on the island. Though there are multitudes of islands around Thailand that people typically go to for vacation, Koh Pra Tong is definitely not one of them. What an incredible coincidence that Pattie and I ended up on this remote island at the same time - though for just one day (she was staying with a friend of hers, after traveling elsewhere in SE Asia). Though we had tried to coordinate meeting each other in a more "civilized" way (over a meal, maybe?), we ended up only seeing each other for 5 minutes, as we both waded through the water near GBB 1 - Pattie getting off our fishing boat and me getting on, after it had luckily rescued her from Koh Ra after she and her friend had been stranded there after snorkeling by a less-than-responsible boat driver. Though it was only for such a short time, it was still great to see her, nonetheless.
As I mentioned earlier, I loved my time on the island - a big contrast to my life in NYC - all of which I embraced and really enjoyed (some things of course, moreso than others :)) - electricity only for four hours a night from a generator; having to use a headlamp and trip my way outside and downstairs to the bathroom in pitch darkness if nature called in the middle of the night, trying not to miss the "squat" toilet; cold showers (actually not bad!); many mosquitoes; sharing the bathroom with a frog; lots of wading to and from the boat - either in beautiful water by GBB or in knee-deep mud in the early morning darkness if low tide; mastering the special talent of jumping across 2 - 4 longtail fishing boats tied together at the "pier" (some still with jellyfish parts) without falling in or out; cicadas that started "chirping" at 6:35 pm every night, in perfect unison; coca cola for 20 cents a can; and the most beautiful beaches you could ever imagine - with not a soul on them . . .
I ended my stay on the island as I'd begun - with a farewell song sung to me to the tune of "New York, New York" - but this time personalized and reflecting some of my experiences on the island. . . I miss Koh Pra Tong and all the wonderful people I met there already . . .