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Koh Samui, Koh Lanta & Krabi

THAILAND | Friday, 26 July 2013 | Views [3310]

The 'quiet beach' on Koh Samui did not prove to be one of my best choices for getting off the tourist track. The hotel was on the wrong side of the main thoroughfare route around the island but did have a nice rooftop top pool & a decent library of DVDs. Getting around without hiring a scooter or a car proved almost impossible, and somehow KS is not the place for a novice.

The highlight, aside from a wonderful 2 hour Thai massage, was a boat trip. There must be an unwritten agreement that once behind the wheel of a minivan, you must get to your destination as fast as possible and by any means available that does not result in damage to vehicle. We arrive, somewhat shaken awake, at the port where we spend an hour leisurely waiting to board our boat. Passing the Big Buddha we file onto the boat where we have coffee & a croissant and head off towards Koh Phenang, home of the infamous Full Moon Party being held tomorrow night. The boat pretty much empties out and we continue to Koh Nang Yuan, a tiny unspoilt island with just one dive resort. We empty our bags of plastic bottles which are forbidden on this island, and head to the designated snorkelling area. There are quite a few people but the fish seem totally unperturbed by our presence. The coral shows less sign of damage than in Australia & the water is beautifully clear. After our allotted 2 hours we return to the boat for lunch and another opportunity to snorkel off neighbouring island Koh Tao. The water here is much deeper and there are large purple coral 'pots' topped with waving tentacles that look as though they belong in a marine garden centre. I dive down to get a better view and watch small fish swimming through them.

On the way back most people fall asleep, exhausted by the days' activities and all the fresh sea air. One little chap from China has his mothers iPhone and without the slightest hint of being in any way self conscious sings out his only words of Queen's We Will Rock You. "Rock you" is sung with gusto and for the first time of the trip, strangers catch each others eye and grin. Music and this young boy's two words of English has somehow united a boat full of strangers, if only for a brief moment.

The journey to Koh Lanta is rather more pleasant and I have a purpose. The minibus rushes along the island's less than smooth road depositing tourists at their various 'resorts' (I would argue the Thai definition of what constitutes a resort in many cases). I am the last tourist on board as we head to Klong Nin. My destination is AsaLanta, known as Baan Din (earth house) to the locals. I am spending a week volunteering here, helping out and getting some first hand experience in sustainable farming. Helpx is a wonderful website where you trade your skills/enthusiasm in return for accommodation and in some cases food. It is designed to be a mutually enriching experience and, if I am to feel like this part of my travels is worthwhile, then helping out and learning about life beyond tourism seems a very good option to me.

I have just spent 10 days in relative luxury and so the bare necessities here, even though I am expecting them, are still something of a shock. In all honesty, it's the loo that does it. A long drop and sawdust. Very sustainable. Very primitive! Anke's and Aoi are welcoming from the outset and it is great to meet the other volunteers too. Visitors drop in and I am relieved to learn that Darren, a Canadian cycling through Asia, has also encountered this unwelcoming barrier. An emerging migraine alerts me to the tension I have been carrying since I arrived in Thailand but Anke's healing massages and copious amounts of balm soon have it beaten back. The atmosphere is positive and lively and before too long you realise that we really do surround ourselves with much more than we need. 

During the week we take the shortcut through the jungle to the beach to bars with prized Internet. There is a typhoon in Vietnam and we are getting the tail end of it in the form of unannounced bouts of torrential rain. On clear days we explore the Mai Kaew caves found by our friend Lek. We scramble through until in the darkness we come to a pool in the river where we clamber down and swim. The shortness of breath catches us unawares but confirms how deep inside we have come. At the start of our walk we were joined by a young cat who came along for the entire trip, earning herself the nickname Supercat. Granted we had to help her in places but what a companion! That night another cat continues to call pitifully despite having fed her. The next day I catch her and it is decided we should take her to the animal centre. We do. She is inoculated, given a de-worming pill and promptly handed back to us. Lek's is taking is on a 4 hour tour of the island in his tuk tuk and so it is that kitten comes with us. We stop to look at elephants but decline a ride and visit the far south where, finally, there is a clean beach! We get to the best sunset view bar on the island about half an hour before a fierce storm descends and quite spoils the cocktails at sunset moment we hoped for.

Volunteering at Koh Lanta was a good decision and while spending 2 nights in Krabi before my trip to Singapore, I arrange my next placement.

Tags: basic, koh lanta, koh nang yuan, koh samui, koh tao, krabi, mai kaew cave swimming, primitive, sustainable, volunteering

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