The attack of the macaques, the long canoe trip at open sea and passing the border with Malaysia

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* Unfortunately there are no photos in this post because our loyal camera was broken in this period

07.02

We are like drunk because of the lack of sleep but we want to escape the terrible Phuket as soon as possible. We sit to eat at a Muslim restaurant and then we head to the exit of the city. We come across a mountain with a steep slope, which we can’t climb in the noon heat so we start hitchhiking in the middle of the city.

Thousands of buses and taxis with tourists pass by us. It seems highly unlikely someone to stop for us here. Then a taxi offers us to take us further for one euro and we agree. After the mountain there is a fork for Phuket and all of the traffic goes there. We have to continue to the highway and exit the island.

The taxi driver doesn’t speak English and can’t understand where we want to go. Then he starts speaking of larger sums mentioning 10-20 euro and we decide to get off immediately. He doesn’t want to pay him for the 3 kilometres we have passed. The important thing for us is that we have passed the mountain and the fork to Phuket. Then as we walk a car stops without us waving at it.

Inside are the owners of the Muslim restaurant where we had breakfast in the morning. They tell us they will be very happy to drive us to the highway, and add they live close-by to it. Then hitchhiking starts smoothly. A boy takes us for 100 km to Phaga Ga Town and till the evening we manage to pass 200 km more to Trang Province. We buy food from a local market there and the last car leaves us at the entrance of the Hat Chao Mai National Park where there are some beaches too. It gets dark so we decide to pass the last 50 km to where we want to go tomorrow.

At one side of the road we see something that looks like an abandoned restaurant with a bungalow and pitched our tent under a shelter because it looks like it will start raining. We are in the sub-equatorial belt and there is no clearly defined dry and rain season – it practically rains all the time. To our surprise just before we go to bed all of a sudden all the lights turn on. Obviously the place is not abandoned at all and the guard has just gone somewhere with his family and now they came back. We are too tired to move someplace else so we hope that there won’t be a problem in the morning.

08.02

border

When the people from the house see us in the morning they are quite startled by our presence. The woman is even ready to run from us but when she sees we are tourists she calms down. We gather our baggage and head to the beach. Contrary to our expectations the South is poorer than the North except for resorts like Phuket. All looks quite shabby here.

We arrive at the first beach and we don’t like it at all. The next one Pak Mueng is full of Thai people at picnic and restaurants. Seven kilometres direction south is the national park itself. We enter in it walking on the beach instead of using the main entrance and nobody notices us. There are much less people here. At the end of the beach there is a rocky island connected to the land with a narrow line of sand. There are many tropical trees on the island and it seems very attractive to us.

We set up our bivouac inside the forest. The place is very beautiful but a concrete pathway is being built around the island and now a group of workers build not far from us destroying the place. There is also a quay not far and all the time boats with tourist heading to Ko Muk Island moor here. Though the beach is not as secluded as the last one we visited, it is a pleasant place and there are no other people except the construction workers. Unfortunately we couldn’t make photos because we still haven’t fixed our camera. We plan to do it in a day or two in Trang Town.

We sleep all the afternoon. We are exhausted by the long hours of hitchhiking and the sleepless night in Phuket. When we wake up we are flabbergasted. The sea is gone! Well not gone but has drawn back 500 m and the bay is dry.  There are some people walking and gathering mussels and crabs on the beach. This is the first time we see such a huge low tide. I head to the sea and have to walk for 10 minutes to reach it.  On the other side of the rocks a herd of long tailed macaques (or crab eating macaques) eat crabs.

In the evening we light a fire in one hole among the trees. The bean meal we cook is almost ready when the hole starts filling with water which at the end kills the fire. The high tide has come and it turns out the hole is actually a tunnel connected to the sea tha is going under the roots of the mangrove trees around us and the sea is now very close. Luckily we don’t have to move because the tide stops coming.

09.02

 The attack of the monkeys

In the morning we are preparing breakfast when a bunch of macaques comes out of the forest. Mr. Shushtari has just gone to wash our utensils in the sea. Several females carrying their babies climb down the tree under which our tent is and a huge male with a dozen of females comes my direction on the pathway from the forest. One of the elder females heads directly to the tent and the whole herd gets ready for attack.

I start yelling and Mr. Shushtari comes with a rod and the monkeys run away taking our saltshaker. We expect them to leave but they occupy a tree 20 meters away from us and looks like they plan to stay there a long time. Luckily the long-tailed macaque is easily scared and is not as aggressive as the normal macaque maybe partly because it is also smaller. They stay away… for now at least.

After a dozen close encounters with macaques during the years we know that this is not at all some fluffy sweet little monkey but it is a wild animal which you better don’t dare. Long ago when I was a child I entered its cage at our city’s zoo and one grabbed me and smashed me in the bars. Later in Nepal I touched one who was passing by me in Kathmandu on a square. This resulted in a heavy blow on my neck by the monkey. On one other occasion we were passing by a big male and Mr. Shushtari made a sound toward him and the macaque attacked us with his big fangs, good that there were people around us who helped us. Then in many Indian cities we had to protect our food from stealing monkeys on various occasions.

Now back to our long tailed macaques. The breakfast is ready and we sit to eat – this of course doesn’t go unnoticed. They start coming sneakingly in our direction and soon a new attack follows. This time we yell really loudly chase them. So the monkeys get it that we are serious and start hanging from the tree above us. From time to time they produce sweet sounds and look at us nicely with their heads tilted on one side. They almost make us believe their sweet look but we know better. If we give them food now than they will destroy our bivouac later for sure. They have opened the slatshaker long ago and now one baby monkey chews it high in the branches above our heads.

At noon we fall asleep for no more than 5 min and when I open my eyes I see the male almost inside the tent. I yell and he hesitates for some seconds whether to continue his assault – obviously not very scared by me. At the end he gives up. In the afternoon the monkeys are gone and we decide to walk in the forest behind the beach. It is full of birds and we hear many different amazing sounds.

We met two poachers with guns and some locals carrying big sacks and rods. All this happening at just 200 yards from the park’s office. I don’t know what the purpose of these parks is other than building bungalows and roads in them in order to charge tourists money. At every national park we have been people hunt and fish and when you enter any pathway there are traps and cartridge cases. Disgusting.

In an hour or so we go back to our bivouac because we don’t want to leave our stuff long time unattended. By the first look we can tell that something happened. We have put everything inside the tent and some stuff in the shelter in front that was zipped too but there was a 15 cm opening.

The macaques were back. Good that they couldn’t unzip the shelter – they have only taken some bottles and the stove. Everything is in plastics. Such scoundrels! 🙂 We have to change the place immediately because here we have to stay only near the tent and won’t be able to even take a bath in the sea.

10.02

We pack our bags and head to a bay 20 km. south. While we walk a mother with a girl stop us and take us to Hat Yao Beach. There are several shops, bungalows and restaurants in the beginning and then the beach stretches kilometres – just forest and sand.

We see some incredibly beautiful rocks and islands in the distance. The views are out of this world. There are not so many tourists and nobody comes close to us. We start picking up mussel shells and enjoy life.

11-12.02

We have to look for an ATM machine because we only have 3 euro left on us. We take our more valuable stuff and leave the bivouac. Some people have told us that the ATM machine is 15 km. away and we hope we will be back in no more than two hours.

I lift my hand and a car stops immediately. The driver works in the restaurant and says he is going to town and will take us with him. The ATM there doesn’t accept foreign cards so they drive us to Kantang, which is 30 km. away. The people don’t speak English and point to some street telling us 10 bhats (5 eurocents). We go out of the car and head to the ATM but we see a big river in front of us. It turns out we have to cross it. We start waiting at the queue of motorbikes and cars.

An iron ferry comes our direction. We are disoriented – why did they leave us here and why do we need to cross the river?! We pay the fee and embark. It turns out that on the other bank is the centre of the town. We withdraw money and search for a shop to fix our camera, but our search was futile (that is why we don’t have pictures in this post). Then we buy food for the next few days and head back. Hitchhiking goes well and in no time we are back. The whole trip took us 3 hours.

In the evening we go to visit the beautiful rocks at the end of the beach. The sea has made some kind of an arc and one could walk under it during low tide. The water at the moment reaches our waists and we decide to enter and explore what is behind the rocks.

We reach a secluded beach surrounded by rocks in amazing forms. There are caves and tunnels that are filled with water during high tide. We feel like we have dived in deep waters and we are at the beach at the same time. We have never seen this kind of views. The sand is so fine that when you walk it makes sounds as if you are stepping in flour. Bats are flying around and everything looks surreal. We have to leave soon though because when the sea rises during high tide we have to stay here or go back swimming. Walking in the dark in the sea with rocks everywhere around us is a little bit scary but at the end we reach the sand and sigh with relief.

 

kartinka

The painting of Mr. Shushtari depicting the beach 

Canoeing in open sea

In the morning we decide to do something awesome that occurred to us yesterday. We have noticed that in one of the restaurants one can hire a canoe. We want to bargain for a lower price, take the canoe for the whole day and reach Ko Libong island, which is 10 km away from the coast.

We prepare sandwiches and leave. The price is 2,50 euro per hour but we manage to bargain for 6 euro for the whole day. We leave all our electronics at the restaurant and take a small backpack with food, compass and a snorkel. We are so excited we will go to an island that is not touristic. Most of the tourists choose to go to some island when visiting Thailand and that is why many of them are packed with resorts and hotels. That is the reason we don’t visit the islands here and on top of everything the ferries are really expensive to go there.

But now there is a great opportunity opening and we want to snatch it. The sea is calm and there is no wind. We row quite a fast stroke and reach a speed of four knots. We go in open sea and a marevelous view to Ki Libong opens. Now we sense what is the feeling of being in open sea – the slightest gust of wind or a higher wave could easily turn the canoe over and put your life in danger. The sun is strong and burns us though we are dressed and covered with shawls.

Nevertheless the feeling of being in open sea is great. We row for an hour and a half till we reach the island. We rest at a beach an continue to the next bay. In it there is an information centre for the dugong – kind of sea cow that could be seen here. We drag the canoe on the beach and go for a walk.

We enter a narrow road going inside the island with several houses next to it. It is as if time has stopped here – we love the atmosphere. We walk for an hour and have to go back. After we eat our sandwiches we take off. All the time we think we see sea cows but we are never sure.

We enter open sea and a wind starts blowing in our faces. Rowing is hard and our arms are tired. Adrenaline starts rushing in our blood. The sun is setting and we can’t take a rest. There are buildings and lights on the coast but if it gets dark it will be difficult to find our way.

Anyway the adventure is great and we start singing “Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum”. The coast seems so close yet the distance stays the same no matter how much we row. In two hours we finally reach the beach – exactly on sun-set. This was our first “open sea walk” all by ourselves and we loved it. We go back to our tent exhausted and dream of pirate treasures and ghost ships.

13.02

We want to stay more but we have to fix our camera urgently and in addition we have seven days left of our Thai visa. We start hitchhiking towards Trang City. We reach Kantang again and the man who has taken us keeps driving instead of leaving us on the main road. We tell him several times  to stop but he doesn’t. At the end he leaves us at some fork and we have to go back 2 km. The temperature outside is 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) and walking is hard.

We stop to rest at an Internet cafe and leave in the afternoon. A boy drives us to the centre of Trang. We ask about the camera in a shop and they tell us they have to send it in Bangkok. We continue searching but don’t find anything.

We eat at the Saturday market where they always sell many deliscios kinds of food and continue walking to the exit of the town/ It is 8 p.m. and we sart looking around for a place to stay. As we walk a car driven by a young woman stops and offers to take us. We tell her we want to find a place to pitch our tent and she gets a little bit anxiuos. She tells us she will go to take her boyfriend and they will take us to a forest outside ot the city. We wait at a bench on the road and soon she comes back.

Her help comes as a blessing because Trang is a big city and we would have walked at least two hours to exit it. The woman tells us she has just got back from UK where she graduated university and now has come back to help with her parents’ business. She is really glad she can help us. She and her boyfriend take us 10 km out of the city near some botanical garden. There are no buildings in the vicinity so it seems perfect. To our surprise the young woman gets out of the car and heads to the guard in the office.

The guards allow us to camp here and just ask us to gather our stuff before 7 a.m. We are almost two months in Thailand now and we are still amazed by the hospitality and the desire to help of the local people. We set our bivouc at a glade near the bathrooms, take a shower and go to bed.

14.02

Hat chao mai

In the morning we get up early and pack our things as we have promised. We eat pinapple and bananas for breakfast and enter the botanical garden – it takes us two hours to see all of it. Inside it there are special towers and rope installations at 20 m. height and one can walk among the coronas of the trees and see everything in different perspective. Equatorial forests have 4-5 levels  each withits own ecosystem. We always walk on the ground floor and life in the “upper storeys” is quite different. Then we continue on a concrete path going over some special kind of pond.

This walk delights us and we continue south to Satun Province. We want to visit Mu Ko Phetra National Park before we head to the border. Three cars later we are in Langu Town. The last car was driven by Thai marines.

They leave is at the centre and we continue to the exit. On the road we see a shop where they fix cameras and decide to go back the next day when it will be open. The national park is 10 km away. A Muslim family takes us to the fork for the park.

We are disappointed to see that the park’s bay is surrounded by houses. The water is muddy and the thin sand line is full of litter. In addition this is Muslim area and bathing dressed just in a swim suit is not recommended. It turns out that the actual park is on the nearby island. We pitch our tent near a rock with some trees and no houses. At least there are no people coming around.

15.02

In the morning we have the usual travelers’ problems. A group of macaques robbed a mango and several banans and we are attacked by some red-black ants. We cook pan-cakes for breakfast and decide to leave. We go back to Langu and spend several hours trying to find a place to fix our camera. Everybody here keeps telling us they have to send it to Bangkok. At the end we buy a screwdriver and disassemble it. Then we put it back together. We have some left overs – a bolt and a spring which we couldn’t find a place for 🙂

The camera works again but the focus is still not working. We will wait for three more days to see what will happen at the exhibition/market our friends will organize in Sofia, Bulgaria. And if we don’t raise enough funds we will buy some cheap camera.

In the afternoon we head a beach 20 km. north because here the beaches don’t seem very attractive. From Hat Rawai Beach a man takes us and keeps talking in Thai all the time convinced we understand him.

We reach a long, wide beach with a pine tree forest behind. It is not touristic and there is a lot of litter. Locals come to drink beer in the forest behind us. The place is relatively OK and is perfect for resting, laundring, writing blog posts and the like. There is a public bathroom and toilet, pavilions and a shop.

16 – 17.02

In the morning before 7 we are awaken by another crazy happening. We open the tent door and see a homeless man going away with our drinking water. Mr. Shushtari catches him up and tells the man we need it back. Besides this the next two days are calm.

A family lives in a house close to us and come to “talk” to us, well more like gesture with us. The only down thing is that the water is shallow and muddy because of the many rivers that enter the sea here and swimming is impossible.

 18.02

This is our last day in Thailand. We head to the border where we will sleep and tomorrow we are entering Malaysia. Hitchhiking is great though there are not much cars. We reach Satun, the regional town.

It is a small not very popular border station. We have 20-30 km. to the village we plan to stay at and before we start we go to an Internet cafe. Then we head to the border town Wang Kelian. Tomorrow we will enter Malaysia.

Two hitchhikes later we are at the entrance of Thale Ban National Park where we plan to sleep. We are supposed to pay 5 euro per person but the rangers who took us with their car are really nice and don’t ask us for money.

Inside the thick tropcal jungle there is a pond over which there are wooden paths and pavilions for birdwatching. We pitch the tent in one pavilion and go to make a night walk. The forest is filled with sounds – toad croaks, insect buzzing, gecko churrupings… We are amazed by the 30-40 meters high trees, their smooth trunks, the massive lianas. The jungle is home to 8 types of tukans and rhinobirds, wild cats, pythons, cobras and many more. Our last night in Thailand is like in a fairy-tale.

19.02

In the morning we go inside the park on the only pathway available. The two-hour walk turns out to be unexpectedly extreme. We are attacked by lichees and our feet are covered with blood. The tropical leeches are everywhere in the tropical jungles and could creep anywhere on you body without you even noticing. It is not a good idea to walk with sandals in the jungle.

Up to now all the forests we have been at were drier but getting closer to the equator things change and leeches abound. After a while a black snake sneaks in the bushes rapidly. The forest teems with life – monkesy, lizards and many kinds of insects. At the end of the walk we come across our friends the macaques.

We see a big male who obviously felt threatened by us and started coming towards us with his fangs out. Mr. Shushtari grabs a rod and this stops the animal getting closer. This small walk made us think again about the expedition we plan to do next week in Teman Negara National park. We must buy long sleeved shirts, rubber boots and hats.

We go back and take a look at the tourist center at the entrance of the national park and then head to the border. We wait an hour for someone to takes us for the 3 km we have left to the border. The border station is not used by many people and there is a small market. Every Sunday people organize a big market on Thai territory and Thais and Malaysians can pass the border frelly this day.

We exchange Thai bhats for Malaysia ringgits and head to the immigration authorities. The procedure is fast and soon we walk on Malaysian land. Bulgarians are allowed 90 day stay in the country without the need of issuing a visa. After two incredible and very relaxing months in Thailand where we recuperated from the intense journeys in Pakistan, India and Myanmar we leave Thailand  – a country we totally fell in love with.

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