Sunday, 8 September 2013

Koh Tao continued…

Jackie found a 'nest' of three kittens at the back of our guesthouse

Today (Saturday) is our last evening on Koh Tao as tomorrow we catch the catamaran to Koh Phangan, the middle sized island in the group of three, Koh Samui we’re not going to and we’re even more pleased after talking to some people who’ve just arrived from there and hated it as it’s too overdeveloped.

Yesterday was another relaxing day for us and in the evening we went for an expensive Indian meal right on the beach. We arrived at sunset, took our place at a table on the undercover terrace overlooking the short beach and lake like sea, with virtually no waves. 
So we had to buy a food sachet for them
The beach had low tables, mats and pillows, potted plants and fire pits, a bar on one side and a covered stage on the other for the live music starting at 7:00pm. What a picture of calm, lots of pictures were taken of the sunset and no-one seemed concerned at the large cloud on the horizon with obvious heavy rain issuing beneath it.

But this one was a bit shy and had to be encouraged
As we had beer and popodoms we watched the gradually advancing rain cloud, but we weren’t concerned as we were undercover. I estimated it would start raining about 7:20pm, Jackie reckoned more like 9:00pm. It got dark so we were unable to track its progress other than the odd flash of lightning and the gradual misting over of the floodlit squid fishing boats in the bay. As time went by a pleasant breeze started, which was very welcome in the evening heat, but just as our main course arrived and the acoustic guitarist started, the breeze turned into a reasonable wind, which made the whole thing quite comical. 

The late sunset pictures, but look at that big cloud on the right...
It was a very warm wind, so it was not unpleasant, but we’ve never eaten a meal under such conditions. I had Bombay prawn curry and the prawns still had their tails on. As I took one of the tails out of my mouth to put on the plate it just blew away! Jackie’s hair looked as though we were sitting in a wind tunnel, but it was still very pleasant! The guitarist was 20 something and looked like an Aussie without his surf board, bare chested and feet, just wearing a pair of shorts and he was unmoved in the wind and carried on with his pleasant ‘middle of the young people’s road’ music. 

There's definitely rain in that cloud - and it's heading this way!
but the band played on. Sorry, this is the best picture I could get!
Yes Helen, we resisted the urge to shout out ‘Elvis’! although we both did it spontaneously to each other (this is a bit of an ‘in’ joke and refers to a visit 12 of us made to Newcastle in Northern Ireland about 3 years ago, visiting a bar one night much the worse for wear. It was very quiet in the bar and a guitarist was strumming away in the corner. In seconds we filled the dance floor and turned it into a riot, Hersha’s husband shouting ‘Elvis’ at the top of his voice. Sadly he didn’t know any, but he kept us entertained and we kept everyone else entertained! Who was it that slipped on the dancefloor knocking the microphone almost down his throat? Jackie says it was you Helen!). Anyway, to complete the story, it ended in an anti-climax as the cloud just passed over us without a drop of rain, but we had a great (although expensive) evening.

The taxi pick up for our boat trip
Today (Saturday) we decided to go on a round the island boat and snorkel trip for what we thought was the bargain price of 750Baht each (£15), plus 100Baht entrance fee to get on a small island en-route. The price includes collection from our guesthouse on one of those pick-up truck taxis, the boat for the day, 4 snorkel sites, lunch and two hours on Koh Nang Yuan island, which is two small granite outcrops joined by a sandbar of white sand, all surrounded by a beautiful clear blue sea with coral just below the surface.

Our boat was the fourth from the left
The boat was interesting enough, being moored at the outer of four boats side by side at the pier, meaning we had to clamber through three boats, stepping across the gaps between each one to get to ours. After sitting in the lower deck and Jackie getting wet from spray we moved to the upper deck and motored out to our first site, Shark Bay, which is SE on the island. We jumped in to about 20m water that was just the right temperature for the day (which fortunately was not brilliant sunshine, but about 70% cloud – but still quite hot) and had half hour looking at plenty of fish, but sadly only dead coral. 
We were told we would see sharks here, but there were only two people who saw one and, of course Jackie was one of them. I heard her shouting to me and she was waving her arm in the air to attract other people, but no-one noticed and I couldn’t get there in time. It was only a baby of about 1m long, but another girl on the boat saw one about 2m long. I wondered if all the coral would be like this, but the other three sites, Aow Leuk, Hin Wong and Mango Bay had absolutely amazing corals and huge quantities of fish. The coral really was as good as the Great Barrier Reef and, as it was so close to the surface we had great views. It was just a fabulous day.

The two hours we had on the island were also fun. It’s another one of those typical tropical islands, with bamboo thatched bungalows dotted around the rocky coast, accessed by wooden walkways snaking round the rocks often over the sea and looking less than substantial. We took one of these walkways as it is possible to ascend to a viewpoint on the smallest of the two peaks, emerging to a rocky top giving a great view of the sandbar, pier and the other peak, surrounded by sea, brilliant!

Koh Nang Yuan Island from the viewpoint
Arriving at the island
Back down again we went for a fifth snorkel in ‘The Japanese Garden’, which is an area of one of the bays with another large coral reef accessed by simply walking out and swimming from the shore. The fish were amazing, clown fish, parrot fish, banner fish, coral fish, Christmas tree worms (bright red, yellow and blue things that look like small Christmas trees growing out of a coral, that rapidly disappear within if you dive down and go to touch them) and, close to the surface what I called zebra fish, cause of what they looked like! They were very curious of us and always liked to stay close and I held out my hands hoping they would have a little nibble. 
The walkways were suspect in some places
Some came very close, but then swam off, but back at the boat at one of the sites someone was throwing some food overboard and they were swarming to grab it. We snorkelled up to the swarm and, as I held out my hand one came over and gave a little nibble, which was like getting an ant bite, but nothing to show for it. Another one nibbled at my leg as I swam away, which was all a great experience.

A fabulous day out and about one tenth of the price of the snorkel trip we did on the Great Barrier Reef, although their boat and lunch was much better! However, the down side is that we’re both sunburnt on our backs and legs, despite layering on the suncream and it not appearing sunny very often, so we’re both lying here on the bed with sore backs and legs – we should really know better, particularly me with my recent skin problems in New Zealand!

Arriving at the Japanese Gardens snorkelling area
What he hasn’t mentioned (despite whittering on a bit) is this won’t get posted till we get to our new destination as the wifi seems to have stopped (though possibly only for us) so we had to take the pc out to dinner which turned into a real ‘catfest’. The restaurant we wanted to eat in had no wifi, so we went elsewhere, had a beer and a starter of ‘noname’ with a small helping of two kittens playing and visiting, followed by returning to restaurant a) to have a fish wrapped in tinfoil from the bbq (lovely it was too) accompanied by a chocolate point moggie who helpfully ate all the skin and anything else we didn’t want! Interestingly B would pass all the skin to me, to feed the cat so I’d get into trouble, despite the fact she was sitting between us!

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