Vacation from Vacation
We have been in Ton Sai a little more than a month and have really adjusted to life here. I managed to hurt my arm a week or so ago and have been resting and relaxing while Briana has been climbing with friends. We thought it might be nice to head out of Ton Sai for a little vacation while I continued to rest my arm. So we scheduled a date with the dugong.
The dugong is very similar to a manatee. There are about 50 or so left off the coast of Trang, a province 2 hours south of Krabi. To get there we had to take several different forms of transportation. We left Ton Sai on a long tail, then we took a truck bus to the bus station, where we hopped on a proper government bus. The buses here are quite a sight. Thai people seem to have a particular affinity for bright pinks and purple and our bus was completely decked out. The outside was bright pink which we have been told is the color of the royal family. The inside curtains were bright purple and a lavish patterned carpet ran all over the ceilings and walls complete with sconces worthy of grandma’s house covering the lights. To add to the atmosphere they blast Thai pop over the speakers for the whole bus ride. Two hours on the bus and we arrived in Trang and walked until we found a guest house to rent us a scooter then it was about an hour scooter ride out to the coast. All in all it was about four and a half hours of travel.
Trang isn’t really on the tourist track. The Lonely Planet guide we have devotes about 5 pages to the entire province of Trang with very little accurate information. Although we have the most recent edition of the Lonely Planet, most of the info in it is outdated. The scooter rental place they listed doesn’t exist and the guest houses they list are pretty sketchy. All the tourist resources (lodging, food, scooters, and internet) are concentrated near the train station. Luckily the lack of resources means that things are reasonably priced. We found a room with a shared bathroom for 150 baht. Alternately we could have gotten an air conditioned room for 280 baht, as compared to our bungalow on Ton Sai for 300 baht.
We went around to a few places trying to find a scooter, but it seemed like we were a little late in the day to find a good one. We eventually found a manual transmission Honda Dream for 250 baht for the day. It wasn’t the best scooter but it did the job. We even managed to get two helmets. Most scooter rentals just come with one helmet for the driver, even if there is a passenger. The helmets they gave us weren’t real motorcycle helmets and never would have been street legal in the states. Briana’s didn’t even have a chin strap buckle and she had to tie a little knot to get it to stay on. We still took some amount of comfort in knowing that we had something on our heads. The guy that rented us the scooter gave us a map and sent us on our way.
Driving a scooter around can definitely be a little intense. They also drive on the left side of the road in Thailand so that can take a little getting used to. The scooter we got had 4 gears and we could cruise at around 60kph, which was plenty fast for us. Most of the scooters stay in the left shoulder while the cars and busses zoom past. It’s a little scary when you have to pass a slower scooter and a truck honks and zooms past you only to cut you off around the next corner. We basically just did our best to watch out for them and stay out of the lane. It was definitely fun to be in control of our transportation for once.
It took us about an hour to get to the pier where we got the ferry to Koh Libong. We missed the tourist ferries out to the island so we were directed to a long tail. They were saying that we could take the scooter on the long tail but we were skeptical. We had planned on parking it somewhere and hoping it was there when we got back. But we pulled up to the boat ramp and sure enough there was a long tail with a ramp waiting for a few more passengers before it left for the island. We paid 160 baht for the two of us and the scooter to get on the long tail. I watched the first two scooters head up the ramp and the boat captain pushed them up and helped them over the bow where the scooters lost traction and got high centered. When it was my turn to head up the ramp a couple other passengers got behind me to help. The ramp was only a few feet wide and amazingly slick. So I gave it some gas and got up near the top but before I got my front wheel on the boat I started to lose traction and fall over. I gained control and kept myself from falling off the ramp amid the screams of the Thai people helping me out. I couldn’t really tell what they were saying but they eventually surrounded me, shifted it in neutral and pushed me over the hump.
We arrived at the island and the boat captain took the liberty of riding the scooter off the boat and up the ramp for me, but I didn’t mind. Once we got off the boat we realized that the entire village was built in the middle of a mangrove forest. The road we were on was basically just fill dirt and gravel above the level of the high tide. All the houses that bordered the road were on stilts with no foundation. It was pretty cool to see the different infrastructure and building materials they used. They basically use whatever is available and if something breaks or comes loose it looks like they just patch it up.
There is one main road from the east side to the west side of the island. It eventually turned from dirt to newly laid brick road. Just as we were remarking about how nice of a road they had it turned back to dirt again. There were a few parked bull dozers and back hoes along the road that were working on continuing the pavement.
From what we could tell there were only two resorts to stay at so if they happened to be full we were probably going to be sleeping on the beach. The one we went to was called Dugong Libong and we got their cheapest room at 500 baht. Then we headed out to the beach with a couple beers to watch the sunset. It was a long day of travel and we felt accomplished at all we had done.
Sometime around 2 am Briana came down with a bout of food poisoning. We had stopped at a food market on our way out of Trang and it was well past lunch. Nothing was in English and there were a few premade dishes still left. Briana went for the green curry chicken and I got some fried chicken. I definitely wasn’t comfortable ordering from the trays. We’re guessing that’s what wrecked Briana’s stomach.
We were supposed to get our dugong tour at 8 am, but we weren’t sure that we would make it. Briana nibbled on some toast and bananas and seemed to be doing well when they came over and told us the dugong boat was ready to go. So we decided to give it a shot and packed up our stuff, checked out and headed out to see some dugongs.
Not surprisingly we were the only people on the boat. We cruised down the coast about a half hour dropped anchor next to a couple other dugong enthusiasts and waited. The dugong don’t really do anything but breath, eat, and sleep. So we were all sitting there basically waiting for one to come up to breathe. It was a pleasant day on the water and we saw some fish jumping, but there were no dugong in sight, there are only 50 of them after all. Our guide was pulling anchor to head to another spot, but Briana’s stomach was acting up so we just decided to head back.
I had some breakfast when we got back and Briana took a little nap before we got back on the scooter to head back. The ride back was pretty mellow. We took the coast back up and admired the limestone cliffs and beaches. Trang is definitely a beautiful province. The beaches and cliffs aren’t nearly as spectacular as Krabi, but it’s much more relaxed and natural. If you want a beach to yourself the Trang coastline is the place to be.
When we got back in Trang city we returned the scooter, found a guest house and did a little shopping. There was a cool crafts fair / night market right in front of the train station complete with a live band. Briana found an awesome dugong t-shirt which we had to buy. I got some chicken on a stick which would eventually lead to my bout with food poisoning later that night. It was kind of a bummer that we hadn’t been sick at all during our trip but as soon as we left Ton Sai to go explore we both managed to eat something that ruined our stomachs. It was fun to get out of Ton Sai for a bit but in the end we couldn’t wait to get back to our bungalow and porch.