Tarutao National Park

I arrived in Bangkok on an All Nippon Airlines flight where though I sat in coach I felt like first class, with fresh sushi, free beer, a selection of several movies including the latest James Bond (which I liked much better than all previous Bonds). This airlines makes my standard American Airlines look like the rotten hacks that they are. But because of flying backward against the day and it only being a 6-hour flight, I suffered no jet lag. Nice! I left my giant luggage at my friend Preamtip’s house in Bangkok and together we flew south on a $25 flight to reach Hat Yai. Took a van transfer to the coast (2 hours for 100 baht ($2.50) although they tried to scam us for 1200 baht which made it nice to have a Thai speaker along!) and we were on a high-speed boat to the national park of Tarutao, an archipelago in the Andaman Sea noted for beautiful beaches and coral. Also it is far from the easy tourist route and thus not swarming with tourists. I packed a tent and so we camped on the main island of Tarutao, right on the beach. A Tsunami Hazard Zone sign was disturbing but the tsunami of 2004 only raised the waters a bit here – they were very fortunate.

The sand here squeaks almost like snowq and is painfully white (like my gut!). It is like walking on corn starch (take some out and squeeze the box and you will know what I mean by the squeaking sound). The tide was heading out so we had just enough time to share a longtail boat (pic coming) with a couple of Germans up the river (estuary) through the mangroves deep into the rocky interior of the island to Crocodile Cave. None here any longer but there used to be. The guide told us to carry everything or the monkeys would steal all. We had flashlights and headed inside a massive cave full of bats and stalactite formations that looked more like curtains and glittered under the light. Very beautiful. We boarded a sort of raft with styrofoam floats and he pulled on a rope to move us deep inside until a small dock where we could walk along a packed mud path. Interesting little tour but at a couple points there was this incredible sound of gurgling in the darkness beyond our lights, the kind you hear when the sea monster is surfacing. I turn toward it, take a few steps and search with my light. I ask the guide, Hey, what’s that noise? He turns away from me and keeps walking, I don’t know. WHAT?!?! I’m thinking he has been here a million times and it being a cave there is a limited number of possibilities. Reality is he has no idea and really doesn’t want to find out. I asked Preamtip about this as she was quick to follow him. “Thai people don’t want to know about that. If something is strange we just go away from it. American people they want to go investigate. Just like in the movies.” Yep, 2 million dead bloody teenage characters can’t be wrong–curiosity kills cats and people just the same. (But I am already dying of curiosoty–what was that noise????)

The trip back was tricky as the boat had to search the wide river at the sea for a place deep enough to pass. He doubled back twice but found one and that night we explored the beach which had extended about 50 yards into the sea. Lots of spitting clams and very fast crabs. Post-sunset was purple pink across the sky and reflecting off the mercury sea surface. A cheap meal at the park canteen and it was off to bed for an early start on the next leg of the island hopping.

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